So I am learning about graphic design from the ground up starting with the fundamental elements and principles.

As I delve deeper into the subject reading more and more about principles like unity/harmony, balance, and design overall, I have come to the following conclusion:

One of the functions of graphic design is aiding the viewer of a piece of work to discover the essence of the artifact, the underlying message that you as the designer is trying to communicate, it is like a storytelling exercise where you as the designer are the author, or, a journey where you as the designer act as a guide, directing the viewer through the work using the elements and principles as tools to reach the ultimate conclusion which would be the message you're trying to communicate.

Would this be a correct analysis or am I completely off and if so (I wouldn't be surprised) where am I going wrong?

  • Hi Daniel. Welcome to GDSE. What do you mean by "visual design"? If you mean UX design, there is a User Experience Stack Exchange - To be honest with you, I am not entirely sure what you are asking, or what your "conclusion" is supposed to mean. It's all a bit too woo woo for me. – Billy Kerr Sep 25 at 10:50
  • Hi Bill, most of the books/material I have been reading about graphic design have used the terms "visual design" and "graphic design" interchangeably or have nested graphic design as part of visual design maintaining that visual design is the process of designing anything that will be consumed visually. Is there a distinction that I should be aware of? – Danny Sep 25 at 11:00
  • As far as I am aware "visual design" is sometimes used instead of UX or UI design - specifically relating to the use of graphics to enhance usability, and improve user experience. To be honest I don't know enough about it to say much more. – Billy Kerr Sep 25 at 11:12
  • I've edited the original question to make it clearer, specifying graphic design instead of visual. – Danny Sep 25 at 11:20
  • Then you probably need to edit it in your quote as well - it still says "designing (visually)". – Billy Kerr Sep 25 at 11:21
up vote 4 down vote accepted

This quote sounds a bit too poetic and many times there's more than one conclusion or message to be communicated, but yes it sounds right: whatever decisions you make as a designer (based on your experience) can improve the overall user experience, regardless of the medium. It is your job to take this content and this branding and integrate all the pieces to give it real-life purpose. See:

And last but not least:

  • Thanks, I just wanted to make sure I was on the right track or how far I was off it; I'll check out the links – Danny Sep 25 at 11:30
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    @Daniel "too poetic" just about covers it for me also. That's kind of what I meant when I said it's "too woo woo" for me, even though I'd describe myself as a creative person. Phrases like "to discover the essence of the artifact" don't really say anything to me. – Billy Kerr Sep 25 at 11:34
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    By the way 'story telling' is also a bit unrealistic and gives it this charming fuzz. Its not the designer telling the story, its the client. The designer takes a story, which may be good or bad or just damn average, and makes it flow correctly to whoever needs to read it. 'Essence, story and journey' are a bit overplaying it. Modern design got to this point where the only relevant elements are whitespace, images and type. graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/a/114418/62949 – Lucian Sep 25 at 11:38
  • Thank you to both of you for clarifying, this is the type of feedback I need. – Danny Sep 25 at 11:46
  • @Lucian yeah well how are you to tell a story of how great the shampoo or car is if i have no data. And when i have the data then the message is written, can you change the story to tell about tigers? No, maybe but you dont really have time to do that your immersed in the layout and assets... and hey you still dont know how the new combrgulator works. – joojaa Sep 25 at 20:34

I think that's a great description. Personally, I don't think storytelling falls off the mark, neither does meaning of artifact. I would just make sure artifact matches the definition involved in the field of semantics. Sounds quite well phrased to me. The client aspect is missing but you clearly mention this is one of the functions so I assume that comes later.

Some leads that may be interesting to integrate in your thinking:

  • Many of the principles of design usually find their root in psychology of perception (Author Rudolf Arnheim may be of interest here) or gestalt which studies how the human mind organizes things to make sense of the world around one's self. A good designer makes use of these principles to improve their work (however, one may not know the underlying theories but still be good at using the principles intuitively, though knowledge will surely make you a better/more efficient designer).

  • One of the hallmarks of designers vs. artists or artisans is that whether they work with visual, sound, engineering, etc. is that their work typically involves wicked problems or problems that share extremely similar features.

  • Thank you Emilie and yes, I have come across the gestalt principles briefly but since you've mentioned them I'll make it a priority to study them closely. Encouraging to know that I'm on the right track! – Danny Sep 25 at 14:32
  • @Daniel My pleasure! Wish we had more theoretical questions like those. Welcome to GD.SE and looking forward to be of help! – Emilie Sep 25 at 14:42

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