Graphic Design Explained

We get this question a lot: “So, what does a graphic designer do, exactly?”

The technical answer:  “Graphic design is the discipline by which a creative artist renders a visual representation of an idea. Hence, a graphic designer turns a concept into a visual communication.”

But, too many people walk away from that conversation. So, I try to put it in more laymen’s terms:

  1. The client thinks of it
  2. We interpret it, understand it, then visually communicate it


Ahh, now, that’s more interesting!  A handful of people even want to engage further: “That seems pretty involved; I thought you just created nice brochures.” It is involved, and to excel, a graphic artist must do more than create nice brochures (we do that too, though).  So, to any remaining audience, I also preach that the most unlikely skill a graphic artist must possess is the ability to ask the right questions and then listen carefully to the answers.

Graphic designers are identity therapists for businesses. We seek out the emotions a business wants their audience to feel, extract and decipher those emotions and turn them into actions, through images and writing.

Like this ad, “scaring” us out of eating GMO corn.

Pop IQ Snacks Creative Advertising

Creative advertisement for POP IQ snacks

That is what modern graphic design can do — create and establish a brand that delivers an emotional punch that cannot be mistaken for anything else.

Contemporary graphic design lives daily in little moments in our lives; like the relief a mother with hungry kids in her car feels with when she sees the “Golden Arches” — a visual representation of convenience, simplicity, a child’s happiness, and — oh yes, food.

Or the thrill of excitement many feel when they see the Amazon “smile” logo on their front door step. Even when we know its just toilet paper.

The colors and symbols of a brand form powerful connections in our minds that can trigger emotions — and ultimately actions.  And when we marry graphic design to how a client wants their customers to feel or think about its brand, it’s the ultimate expression of art and design.

And it works both ways. If anything negative becomes associated with a brand, the brand itself becomes a symbol of negativity. In some cases, a brands’ image must be changed entirely to overcome this. Kentucky Fried Chicken, changed to “KFC” to minimize their image of unhealthy “fried” food. Phillip Morris became Altria, when they discovered their name was too synonymous with the taint of tobacco-related death and disease.  And so on.

When we work with clients, we attempt to immerse ourselves in their culture — their business, product, service, audience, personality — so we can discover, and then create the essential and indelible images of a unique brand.

Your logo is not just a logo. It’s the cornerstone that consumers will come to instantly recognize when they engage with your company. If your logo isn’t used consistently everywhere, it should be. Your advertisement isn’t just slapped together for a magazine, billboard, or web banner, just to fill up the appropriate amount of space. It’s a piece of art intended to point your customers in a direction, and then have them take action. Your website is more than just a necessary marketing tool. It’s your virtual brochure or storefront, designed to invite customers in and have them stay a while.

For us, all graphic design is custom — from the pizza box at your local sub shop to the vehicle design for a national communications company — every asset is an opportunity to build a unique, memorable and lasting impression of your brand, and what it represents.

Therefore, every brand must be distinct, no two should ever look the same, or be “generic,” which is the hard part. But hey, as Jimmy Dugan once said… “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”


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