I don't have any experience with graphic design and similar arts. But my thesis is about photographic rules, and many of the rules there are derived from graphic design. I have a book about Photographic Composition and it mentions many terms that I am not sure I can distinguish between them, especially that some of them might have more than one of them. So could you please tell me that meaning(s) of the following terms?

Graphic Design
Graphics (with s)
Graphic Controls


EDIT: Some people asked me to put some context. Here is a context from Photographic Composition by Grill & Scanlon:

Graphic Controls
Despite photography's three-dimensional appearance, a photograph really consists of nothing more than a two-dimensional surface on which deposits of different tones and colors have been laid. In this regard, a photograph has much in common with a painting, a lithograph, a printed page, or any of the other two-dimensional media collectively referred to as the graphic arts.

Question: What does graphic controls mean here?

On a practical level, graphics--the interrelationships of the points, lines, shapes, and frame of a photograph--penetrate to the heart of photography.

Question: How is this definition of graphics related to computer graphics, which seems to be completely different, because the latter is actually the rendering of elements on screen, and it has nothing to do with interrelationships?! And what is the difference between graphic and graphics?! It is obviously not a singular-plural thing!

You see, I understand these words if they are put in a statement, but I want to know their exact accurate definition to deal with them correctly.

  • 1
    Hi - I think you need to add a bit of context around these terms for anyone to be able to give a meaningful answer. Perhaps you could quote a sentence for each term? Also, "similar rats"?
    – e100
    Mar 30, 2011 at 11:25
  • Ops, sorry, that was supposed to be arts :D
    – Promather
    Mar 30, 2011 at 11:43
  • Well, I got them from a book which I don't have now, but the book is about Photographic Composition. I will update the question as soon as I have the book in hand.
    – Promather
    Mar 30, 2011 at 11:45
  • Try googling these terms first, see what you find, then come back with questions where you need clarification.
    – DA01
    Mar 30, 2011 at 13:29
  • 1
    @Promather: per @e100's comment, you need to add more context to this question. As it stands now, it is unanswerable but if you give more information or improve the question, I will be happy to re-open it. Mar 30, 2011 at 15:06

2 Answers 2


Everything derives from design, which is the construction of a system. Graphic Design refers to the construction of elements on a page, eg. a newspaper. A newspaper is a combination of illustration, photography and text to create a system of disseminating information in a logical manner. You see a newspaper and you immediately know what it is because it has a specific media, form and style.

Web design sprouted from graphic design. The only real difference between the origins of graphic design and web design were links, which allowed you to navigate from page to page through context instead of flipping the pages of a newspaper, see page 17.

Getting back to your questions, graphic arts (now referred to as graphic design) controls the context of the photograph. You can change the appearance of the photograph to match the rest of the content on the page. You might make the photo black and white if it was in a newspaper.

Graphic refers to the method. Graphics refers to the elements on the page. A Graphic Designer would lay out the graphics on a screen before they went to print.

The interrelationships mentioned here are the ones between the photograph and the text/image on the page. Take a look at this picture (randomly pulled) Example of page

The title text goes over the photograph of the room. Those two elements are interrelated as are the images with the layout of the rest of the page.

Does that help?


Regarding question 1: The book ought to have the answer.

That seems like a definition or usage invented by the author. I suspect that, in the context of photography, the graphic controls would be in two groups: on camera (aperture, time, lens distortion, f-stop) and in the darkroom (time, chemicals, manual dodging). Again, the book MUST talk about this in some manner, and you will derive the meaning from that.

Regarding question 2:

Computer Graphics refers to two things:

1) The science/engineering field of computer rendering. This field is less concerned with the forms of artistic manipulation you seem to associate with the word "Graphics" 2) The manipulation of software tools to achieve an image for rendering. This presumes a person with artistic intentions and in this sense can be spoken of in the same manner one might speak of any non-computer media.

In a very general sense, you need to rely on a dictionary. "Graphic" has more than one meaning and usage, some of which do not even pertain to art.

When speaking of art, one might refer to Mucha ( http://www.google.com/search?q=mucha ) as "graphic" when compared to Bougereau ( http://www.google.com/search?q=bougereau )

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