We’ve all been there.
You’re at your nana’s 80th birthday party, it’s a total blast, and some distant aunty somehow finds you ‘blending in’ beside the food table and reminisces about how tall you were the last time she saw you. Next, she asks you what you’re doing with your life, and if your me, you proudly say: “I’m a graphic designer!” Her face goes blank and then she says what everyone always says in response to my answer: ‘And what do graphic designers do?’
To me, graphic designer is a pretty specific job title – I’m a designer. I design stuff. What don’t you get?
It seems that even though I know what I do, I still can’t give my distant Aunty Bev an answer to that question which she will understand and proudly tell her friends at bridge the next day. And when I think about it now, I realise that I still don’t know the answer.
Maybe that’s the problem.
We, as graphic designers, don’t actually know.
Google defines a designer as “a person who plans the look or workings of something prior to it being made, by preparing drawings or plans”, which is accurate – we do a lot of planning and sketching, but what most people mistake us for, is being artists. No, not all of us can draw. Some of us designers are lucky enough to posses that particular skill and very few of us still, can perfectly replicate that super cute picture of your dog using paper and a pencil.
Google gets closer to an answer with their definition of a graphic designer: “the art or skill of combining text and pictures in advertisements, magazines, or books.” Yes, we can do that, and we can do it really well, but that’s not all we can do. Aside from drawing, most non-designers associate us with logos which is totally right, we design logos, but no we will not use the illustration of your dog’s face as your at-home spray tan business logo. What people don’t think of is: basically everything else. We can create logos, we can design websites, we can make email signatures, we can create Instagram posts, we can design business cards, we can even name your business, we can design packaging labels, we can edit photos, we can make posters or design billboards… I could go on. I once designed the graphic on the side of a bus – you know how celebrities think they’ve made it when they see their face on the side of a bus? Well, I put their face there, smoothed their wrinkles and put their name and current promotional slogan beside it – have I made it?
Mostly, we think. We do a lot of visualising and sometimes we get really excited about the shapes swirling around our brains we forget to write/sketch them down and we curse ourselves when we can’t quite remember what version 8 looked like at 2 am last night – it was brilliant though, trust me. Yes, we make things look pretty but we develop ideas and solutions that mean something, that have a reason for looking like that. Your business values are as important as the colour we chose for the front cover of the trifold brochure we’re making for you. We want your customers to understand your values, your industry and your personality by looking at that brochure.
Often, we may disagree with your suggestions for making that text black on a red background, but we are doing it in your best interests. If you have something you don’t know how to do or you’re not sure if we can do that something – ask us anyway because I’m sure we will figure it out.