Why Graphic Designers Aren’t Just Glorified Artists
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Why Graphic Designers Aren’t Just Glorified Artists

Graphic design is basically just art, right? In a way, yes, it is a form of art. But graphic design is more than that, it’s “art with a purpose”, as Treefrog says. What does that mean, exactly? First let’s figure out what exactly graphic design is, then it’ll be clear how it differs from art.

What Is Graphic Design?

Graphic design is an artistic technique that uses both imagery and typography to “meet users’ specific needs and focus on the logic of displaying elements in interactive designs to optimize user experience”, according to The Interaction Design Foundation. Basically, graphic designers use both pictures and words to create a design that is created for one specific purpose. Another key point the site makes is that “it concerns aesthetic appeal and marketing”, so the purpose of the design is to sell something. Therefore, a graphic designers work is meant to attract a certain market and create an image of a brand, business, or specific item, with the purpose of creating trust in that brand or business, or a call-to-action to purchase that item.

What really sets graphic designers apart from artists is that their work focuses on pleasing a specific set of people. If marketing is an important aspect of graphic design, then that means it’s supposed to deliver a certain message. So everything that gets put into the design is centered around that message. Not to mention the way the images and typography are laid out; graphic designers are particularly meticulous about this because the viewer’s need to see the design as a story, leading them to the purchase of a product or to trusting the brand. Thus every single aspect of the design is dedicated to one specific purpose.

Whether you’re interested in a logo design, an advertisement, or some branding for your business, your go-to professional would be a graphic designer. Yes, an artist could create a beautiful piece of art for you, but it wouldn’t convey the specific message you’re trying to send out to your viewers.

How Is This Different From Art?

Although we just said graphic design is art with a purpose, that doesn’t mean that art itself is purposeless. To put it differently, art does have a purpose, it’s just generally not a commercial or communicative purpose like graphic design is. ThoughtCo helpfully shares that art “causes people to look a little closer at social issues, at other people and their emotions, at the environment that surrounds them, and the everyday objects and life forms around them”. To clarify, the purpose of art is to make viewers think and consider the things around them. Graphic design, as a form of art, asks viewers to consider the specific message it’s conveying.

ThoughtCo also explains that art is a form of self-expression, because the artist feels strongly about the subject they are portraying. This is different from graphic design because, as we’ve said, the designs are meant to attract viewers. The graphic designer is not creating a piece of self-expression, but rather a piece that is meant for others and may not even have any personal meaning to them. Unless, of course, they are creating the design for their own business.

So art is meant to convey the artist’s feelings and thought, with the purpose of making others think. Conversely, graphic design is meant to convey a business’s message with the purpose of helping that business in some way.

So… Are All Graphic Designers Actually Artists Or Not?

Given these points, it may seem like graphic designers aren’t actually artists. But it can be argued that they are artists, and more. Specifically, they use art, and their artistic abilities, in unique ways that serve the purpose of meeting a company’s specific needs. They are undeniably talented with the way they artfully blend typography and imagery to convey a message that serves one specific purpose. Rather than just aiming to look interesting or start some social commentary, graphic designs are all meant for some type of commercial purpose, with the ultimate end of helping businesses to thrive.

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