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I know the photos look weird, But are they considered graphic design or not?

  • 3
    I'd argue Graphic Design is a process, not a result
    – Jon P
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 22:24

5 Answers 5


Ok, I would personally try to use a less inclusive definition than "if its an image that communicates stuff", because of course it does, as the basis of the definition graphic design. Some people like this maximalist definition, but it does tend make the world a bit diffuse.

So another definition would be: "Graphic design is a process of solving a visual communication problem that has some objective goals behind it." Design is just the part of the work that leads to the end result not the end result.

So my answer is that your example has possibly been made as graphic design. So to know you'd have to ask the author. But the image is not graphic design any more than any other image is.

  • I think it depends whether you see "design" as a noun or a verb. This answer seems to be describing the verb. Which is fine. However, the end result is also design - merely the noun.
    – Scott
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 18:01
  • 1
    @Scott i disagree that end result is design because it pollutes the meaning of the word. Maybe images, media and code are a special case though. But if the end result in general is design then everything is design since nearly everything man made is designed. No I posit the documentation of how to make it is design.
    – joojaa
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 18:08
  • Everything is design - we simply disagree on that.
    – Scott
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 18:14
  • 1
    That's not at all what I've written. :)
    – Scott
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 19:02
  • 1
    This is why saying machine makes design is so unsatisfactory. Yet if the book, or chair is design then the machine is making it. If on the otherhand uts executing a design, then the design is somesort of instruction. If its copying design then...
    – joojaa
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 19:17

Part 1. Definition

There are several definitions of Graphic Design. Some are more strict, and some are too loose.

One definition, although I still feel not exactly right, that I like is https://www.dictionary.com/browse/graphic-design

But let me edit my version of it.

"The profession or process that solves communication problems using visual elements, such as images, words, space, and color, to convey messages and/or information to an audience".

Let me explain.

I ditched the word art because Design is not art. We can argue a lot about it, but, although both can use visual elements, the main objective of Design is to convey a (specific) message to a receptor, whereas in art, the piece is considered an expression of the artist, regardless of the spectator. That message is part of a communication problem, where you have an emissor, a message, a receptor, and a medium.

The receptor is not an individual, it is an audience. It could be massive or somehow limited, like a private class. I could also add that Graphic design is meant to be reproduced; printed or electronically distributed, whereas in art the original is the one meant to be viewed.

If the visual work is meant to be viewed only by one person (or just a few), let's say a girlfriend or some family member, it could be a craft, but not necessarily graphic design.

Another element of communication is the usage of codes, that are widely recognized by that audience. A closed element could use codes only recognized by that close circle (for example a photo of grandpa's car), but in graphic design, you use elements that are common in the society it is used.

Graphic design is meant to be a rational and specialized process. That is why I used the words profession (by a person that uses a good amount of specialized knowledge) and process (based on some methodology).

Part 2, Is that image an example of the definition?

No. It does not.

There are no recognizable signs or communication elements to be decoded (code-decode). There is not a redable message. There is no method or structure. There is not a defined emissor, message or receptor.

It is not.


The photos have been deliberately put together and stars and circles have been added on top.

Whether or not these images in themselves can be seen as graphic design is unclear as we don't know the context. The person who made this might consider it art or might just see it as a kind of arts and crafts.

But they certainly have a visual expression which you, as a designer, can choose to be inspired from and you can use this expression to solve whatever design problem you are trying to solve.

It isn't really that important if things you see and like are considered graphic design. You can draw inspiration from everything around you including nature, technology, randomness, art and so on.

  • Perhaps the real problem lies in us overloading the act of planning, and end result with the word "design". The end result may or may not be designed but it would be easier if we didnmt call end result design, because we get into unsolvable terretory.
    – joojaa
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 7:01
  • 1
    @joojaa, very true. I know an old acclaimed artist who would normally call himself a "painter" or "sculptor" because that's what he does. Whether or not his works can always be seen as "art" or sometimes "design" is another matter.
    – Wolff
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 9:35

I think this question is very subjective, perhaps too subjective. However I will try to answer it, but this is merely my opinion. Feel free to disagree.

To me, these examples look like randomly placed images and graphics, i.e. a random photo collage. I see little evidence that these have been designed (or planned) in any meaningful way, at least not meaningful to me. Maybe better to just call them "art", since in the modern art world, just about anything can qualify as art, even random paint splatters.

Also, I think it's meaningless to say a piece of work IS graphic design. Graphic design is a process we use to create graphics/images that communicate something. The question is rather whether any design process has been used at all to create them, and in these examples, I suspect not. Although, this is entirely subjective. Perhaps the author of these images did everything quite deliberately and these examples may have some meaning to them personally.


"Graphic Design" is defined (by the AIGA) as:

"The art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content"

With this in mind, yes. That is Graphic Design. In fact, practically anything one sees in terms of a visual presentation will fall into the category of graphic design.

Good or bad graphic design is another matter entirely and often subject to more opinion-based determinations than anything else.

  • But there is no text in the first image Is it still considered graphic design? I'm a very beginner in graphic design so excuse me if my questions are dumb.
    – Edd
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 4:42
  • 1
    @Edd There's no rule stating that "Graphic Design" must contain text. I mean this is certainly graphic design.
    – Scott
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 6:56
  • @Scott is there are rule that graphic design must result in a image or graphic? In fact seems to me that your definition only refers to the act of deisgn it does not in any way specify that the artefact is design. So if you read the definition thisway no the end resulyt is not design.
    – joojaa
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 7:02
  • I don't understand that @joojaa -- If you plan the placement, size, proximity, balance, etc of visual elements... it's design.
    – Scott
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 8:49
  • @Scott Yes i understand but design does not neccesitate that you make the thing you could specify it in text and instructions without making the image. This happens when you make stye guides for example. But alas the end result is the artefact of your design not the design itself. I understand that this is a bit more diffuse since you make images so the end result is nearly the same as your design document. But the design of a chair is not a chair its the instruction how to make one. So your design is the original file format not the one you pring,display on web, the PDF etc...
    – joojaa
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 9:12

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