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Design isn’t just making things “pretty.”

It only takes a google search of “what is graphic design” and a couple excursions into wikipedia to discover that graphic design is more than what it seems. defines graphic design as “the art or profession of visual communication that combines images, words, and ideas to convey information to an audience, especially to produce a specific effect.” From this definition it can seem like a designer’s job is simply to make things prettier than they once were. Design is commonly misunderstood as the process of taking client provided content and–through a bit of magic–transforming that content into a press or web ready masterpiece. The true process is not quite so simple or so easy.

One of the first things that differentiates graphic design from a purely visual makeover is the amount of research that goes into a project. Research happens before any art or design tools are even picked up. It is important for a designer to understand their client’s needs and goals. If the client is a coffee shop owner looking to rebrand, then a designer would examine that coffee shop, their market, other successful coffee shops, and a slew of other factors in order to determine a specific design solution. The research reveals the audience and message to the designer, who then has a clear path for the design. When research is not conducted by a designer, the audience can totally misinterpret the message a client is trying to say. When that happens, the client loses business.

Another important part of the graphic design process is the solution. Someone trying to “pretty-ify” a brand will not have the research or explanations to support the design choices they made. A graphic designer who has done their research will be able to explain all of the choices they made and back up those choices with evidence. Color, composition, image choice, typography, and many more elements of design are carefully crafted and tailored for each and every project. If a designer chooses to use the colors red and brown for a coffee shop they are rebranding, they would say something like, “I chose red and brown in order to emanate a cozy feeling. Red especially is used in the coffee industry to show warmth. These colors will also distinguish this coffee shop from the green of many Starbuck’s locations and show that this company has a completely unique experience from the main market.” These explanations are only about the color, and yet, it is a convincing argument about why the designer made the decisions that they did.

Finally, the most important thing is the attitude a designer has towards their client. Apathy isn’t allowed.

Designers should want to see their clients succeed. The perfect relationship between a client and designer is one of a partnership. The two parties work together in order to achieve a solid design solution that will speak directly to their intended audience. Designers have a passion for what they do, and they want to spread that passion to the clients they work with. We’re not just quickly coming up with something that looks good in order to take your money and run off to the next person. We want to establish a partnership and enhance a client’s audience’s experience. Designers are here to help in every way they can. In the end, they’re not just designers, they’re creative problem solvers.

Still, it’s difficult to explain how design fully works. People will always think that design is just visual enhancement instead of a problem-solving tool. Design can increase sales, improve functionality, reduce cost, save time, and of course make something look better. It’s so much more than a beautification process. There’s a lot hidden. Working with a good designer is the only way to reveal everything that’s there.

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