Graphic design involves so much more than just visual themes and aesthetics. It encompasses nearly everything about the user experience, from discovery to exploration. Artists and professionals often get credit for creating “beautiful” or “stunning” designs, but sadly, those phrases speak only to the visual elements. There’s another layer hidden beneath what you see in a design that influences functionality and navigation.
Where you place the nav menu on a site, for instance, can alter the experience. If it’s difficult to find or understand, visitors are going to have a tough time moving about the site. Like the menu, there are hundreds of nuanced details and components of a design that can cause trouble when mismanaged. It’s up to graphic designers to ensure aesthetics mesh properly with functionality and form.
Why Graphic Design Matters
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then surely an optimized design is worth 10 times that, especially when you consider just how much a poor design can affect a business. The influence is so much more significant than online businesses and e-commerce, too — graphic design is essential in every industry, from manufacturing to health care.
One of the first things any business owner will do is come up with a logo, and perhaps even a mission statement to match. Right away, it’s about building a brand and establishing something customers and clients will recognize. The same is true of everything related to a business, from print ads and promotional flyers to online profiles and websites.
The tone and theme of a design should remain consistent across all mediums and platforms. It must also convey what your brand stands for, be it a professional image, or a quirky, more whimsical nature.
Excellent graphic design is what bridges the gap between all the disparate mediums and platforms, and it’s only with a coherent theme that your customers will know your brand as soon as their eyes land on a page — physical or digital.
User Experience and Customer Experience
Ever visit a poorly designed webpage? What about using an ugly mobile app? Poor design equals a negative experience—end of story.
It’s not just about interactive elements, either — it’s about everything the design exudes. Unoptimized images and visual content can mean poor performance and slower loading times. Ugly colors and background styles can make text difficult to read or buttons tough to interact with. Badly placed page elements can obscure important content or visuals. There are a lot of mistakes you can make if you’re not following best practices in graphic design and staying abreast of the most popular trends. But the worst part about a poor design is that it doesn’t just affect your customers — it bogs down everyone who needs to access a portal or application, including employees and partners.
If you’re doing the math, it means design can affect employee productivity and performance, revenue, customer experiences, partner relations and much more. That massive amount of influence probably explains why there are over 200,000 graphic designers in the United States alone. They are certainly in demand.
Many people judge a book by its cover, despite being told not to do so. Poor design directly influences the trust and credibility a business has with consumers. If your website is shoddy or amateurish, it will reflect badly on your brand. Imagine how powerful other elements of your business are, too, from online and print ads to public documentation.
Graphic Design Across Industries
To better understand what roles graphic design plays in the modern world, it makes sense to explore how various industries use it.
Sometimes, graphic artists help design products and goods. But it’s more common to see design play a role in packaging, presentation and marketing. Designers will often develop conceptual packaging to protect and ship goods. It might seem inconsequential, but product packaging means a lot these days with online and locally shipped products.
Designers may also be involved in creating additional assets, including concept art, photography and product images, illustrations, documentation and branding.
Many publications — long-form especially — require the touch of a graphic artist. Common forms include print media like magazines, newspapers, catalogs and compilations. However, digital publishing is another aspect that has picked up steam in recent years.
Either way, graphic artists and professionals can create compelling, user-friendly publications that flaunt their aesthetic appeal.
Graphic design dominates the marketing and advertising field, as companies rely on artists to create successful content that is both functional and stylish. Marketing designers tend to work closely with company owners or directors, or other marketing professionals. They use their skills to create print ads and media, digital marketing assets and more.
4. Computer Systems Design
A UI, or user interface, is the visual component of various applications and software. It directly influences how users interact with a system, device or platform. It also happens to be the primary focus of computer systems design, and it’s the designer’s job to balance UI form and function.
5. Food and Beverage
You might not think so, but every time you walk into a restaurant — even fast-food joints — you encounter a wide variety of elements graphic artists and designers created. Skilled designers chose the digital signage, murals and wall art, the overall theme and colors and sometimes even the physical layout of the restaurant.
6. Health Care and Medical
Barring a select few hospitals, you can walk into any medical facility and instantly see examples of design and visual style. Minimalistic art and visuals meant to evoke positive emotions are common in health care centers.
Also, the general design of any hospital centers on improving and optimizing patient engagement, particularly in physical spaces. Branding and marketing play a role, but efficiency is the most significant factor, as many hospitals are constructed in a way that streamlines delivery and care.
Retail is one of the most apparent industries making use of graphic design. Almost everyone has encountered some element or form of graphic design in retail, including e-commerce.
The usual suspects include signage, print ads, promotions, digital platforms like websites and mobile apps and even the interior layout or design of a physical store. Skilled graphic designers get involved in nearly every element of business, from designing the company logo or brand themes all the way to the development of a unique interior layout.
8. Conventional Design
Of course, traditional graphic design responsibilities belong on this list too. Environmental or location-based design, for example, plays a huge role in today’s hyper-visual world. It’s about making spaces and places more memorable. It includes elements such as branding and signage, decor or even public navigation.
Essentially, anything that alters the visual experience or layout of a space requires a thorough understanding of graphic design.
Graphic Design Is a Requirement in Today’s World
Whether you’re talking about digital, online experiences or physical experiences that happen in the real world — like something you might encounter in a brick-and-mortar store — graphic design plays a huge role. It is paramount to success in every industry, from manufacturing and aerospace to health care.
Lexie Lu is a UX strategist and web designer. She enjoys covering topics related to UX design, web design, social media and branding. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, or follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.
Stock photo from Rawpixel/Shutterstock
Stock photo from Georgejmclittle / Shutterstock