Graphic design has always been an important creative art that helps companies, brands and individuals communicate their messages in a visual format. From the early days in newspapers and physical newsletters to the glossy magazine spreads that dominated for decades, through to the multiple digital platforms available today – graphic design well and truly everywhere.
Graphic design is all around us
Whether you’re conscious of it or not, you’ll find examples of modern and professional graphic design on website banners, social media platforms and a range of other digital sources. They’re even responsible for making things look pretty for musicians and other performers. In fact, all forms of branding typically feature something from this field of marketing.
Graphic design goes even deeper and is an integral part of policies and procedures, white papers, case studies and important company documents. They’re crucially important for unifying your brand across all customer-facing assets, ultimately ensuring you’re sending the right message to your audience. Whether we think about it or not, graphic design plays a massive part in how we perceive a brand overall.
It’s time to stop underestimating this art-form
Unfortunately, there are still many misconceptions and myths when it comes to graphic designers and what they actually do. We are here to debunk these common graphic design myths to help shine a new light on what you may think of these professionals and what they’re responsible for. At the end of the day, there aren’t little magical creatures miraculously creating things that look pretty – there is someone that’s full of creativity and expertise in the field, all working towards creating a brand image that packs a punch.
Myth 1: “All rights reserved” doesn’t apply to graphic designers
Copyright law is a very serious thing and this is a very important point for aspiring designers. You can’t simply take any media, use it as inspiration and alter it to your liking, then pass it off as your own. This is important for non-designers to take into consideration when they are trying to conduct a basic design of their own. There are many subscription services that provide professional images and basic designs that you can use commercially, but you cannot simply Google the images or assets you need, alter them and then publish them. This term is something that is mandated by law.
The good news is that this works both ways. Under Australian copyright laws, anything a graphic designer creates is automatically protected which means you don’t need to make any applications to own the copyright over the work. This protects you from having your work appropriated or stolen.
Myth 2: All graphic designers do is create a logo for brand guidelines
It is pretty easy to start a business in the modern world. All you need is an ABN, a tax file number, a website and a product or service to sell. When it comes to the brand logo, everyone knows that they need a graphic designer to complete the task for them. But many people are unaware of the depth of work that goes into the brand design and how it contributes to communication with the overall market. It goes much deeper than simply slapping together a logo.
Graphic designers are not just creating a logo, they make changes to existing collateral and create an entire suite of visual content to communicate your brand values and messages to your audience. While the Nike Swoosh may look simplistic, enormous work and expertise would have gone on behind the scenes to culminate the end work. The myth that they just ‘slap’ together with a logo and that’s it, is definitely not in line with reality.
Myth 3: They won’t work for affiliate commission or for “exposure”
There can be a lot of disrespect shown to graphic designers with many people thinking that any Tom, Dom and Harry with design software is capable of producing AAA standard work. Many businesses will often try to strike up a commission arrangement where the designer is only paid a percentage of any sales that result because of their work in advertising or marketing campaigns. Worse, graphic designers are treated as musicians and asked to work for free so they can improve their portfolio and gain exposure in the design industry. Any agency that values the designs of a professional like this strays away from this mindset. For one, they have expertise in a career that means they’re in demand, and they should always be shown the respect that other professionals are shown.
Any graphic designer worth their salt is going to be insulted by such an offer and is going to walk away. The old saying goes, “You pay peanuts, you will get monkeys.” Designers have spent many years honing their craft and their own business, clients and reputation are hugely important as well. You wouldn’t ask an engineer or a manager to work for “exposure”, so don’t insult your designer or design team either.
Myth 4: Freelance graphic designers are not serious
There can be a school of thought that those in the design industry that work freelance are somehow inferior to those working fulltime positions with major corporations or that they are content with not working for agency environments. The reality is that the freelance graphic designers have a company registration number, a design degree, they are registered for GST and they work just as hard, if not harder, than those in traditional 9-5 office jobs. They have their own clients, target audience and pipeline – they’re hard-working individuals, just like everyone else in the technology or marketing fields. This is one of the biggest myths about graphic design.
The world is changing and creative industries aren’t the only ones moving into remote operations. In most instances, companies cannot afford to have a dedicated in-house design team so outsourcing to freelance graphic designers makes sense. They have the same skills, qualifications and experience as any other professional and should be treated as such.
Myth 5: Graphic design is about creating still images
In the world of digital media, design is about more than just still images. It is possible to create a range of simple animations that communicate your brand message and story to a target audience or client, and more that can be used on your website, social media platforms and more. Design can also be interactive and this is especially important when presenting infographics or other information to help the audience be more engaged in a way that’s more meaningful.
Video design is also an extremely important way to bring simple visuals to life. Graphic designers will utilise overlays, moving images, animations and graphics that will attract the eye and convey your brand message. For a brand that’s struggling to make an impression or stand out, it can serve as the perfect source of inspiration to drive action. It can even make changes to how your brand is perceived entirely.
Myth 6: Online tools mean anyone can be a graphic designer
There are many design tools and platforms out there that claim to be able to turn you into an instant designer. While it is true that these tools will enable almost anyone to do basic design work, this does not turn you into a graphic designer. For example, anyone can slap together a logo, but can they create a logo that is going to be effective? The design process involves understanding your brand, your personality, your target audience. Every font, every colour, all links, every shape is vital to the process. This is just the entry-level design processes as well.
Have a think about these parts of the job:
- Can you confidently and efficiently create some hand-drawn or computer-generated design artwork from scratch?
- Can you adhere to the strict deadlines that designers are bound by?
- Can you take poor briefs, too much information and conflicting information and turn it into some work that meets the needs of a client?
- Do you understand the importance of terms like the rule of thirds, typographic hierarchy, kerning, leading, tracking, orphans and widows, Lorum Ipsum, CMYK, aspect ratios, knolling, negative space or skeuomorphism?
Why you shouldn’t just use common graphic design tools
Experience means everything. It’s pure arrogance to think a rookie can pick up an online design tool and be as good a professional graphic designer or someone who is trained and has years of industry experience in the business.
Recognise those tools for what they are: handy tools for the small, manual labour side of design, but not a replacement for an actual author of unique, strategic collateral. A designer who has gone through the years of experience with designs and qualifications to get to where they are is able to deliver a whole lot more than industry tools available online. And that’s just fact.
Are you showing your value in this creative field?
At the end of the day, you need someone to keep on top of design trends for your site and brand. Tools can’t do all of that for you – and making the investment in a professional resource is one you won’t regret.