From my previous post on this topic:
With all that said, I would say that graphic design, to me, is first a subset of “design” generally. When I think about design, I think about the notion that intention / purpose is what differentiates it from pure art (at least, that’s been a good functional definition for me). So, graphic design is a subset of design and therefore is concerned with intention. I think what further delineates graphic design apart from other design disciplines (architecture, industrial, etc.) is the notion of communication. So for me, graphic design is a way of thinking about visual, spatial, and formal problems that is fundamentally communication-oriented. I further believe that all design is also concerned aesthetically and functionally, and socially.
So I suppose a summary of that would be to say that graphic design is design that is concerned with communication and is expressed in a multiplicity of ways – some examples could be visually, spatially, programmatically, theoretically – and this design is working aesthetically, functionally, and socially. I do think the notion of “upstream and downstream” in design thinking is appropriate; so there are facets of design that occur purely in the conceptual / thinking / upstream phase of the process, and there are facets of design that occur in the executional / downstream phase of the process – I see both as “design”.
That was a few weeks ago (almost five – hard to imagine time has moved so quickly). I still agree with this definition, and am wary to add anything to it – in fact, I wish I could distill and distill it until it was at some kind of “essence”. Maybe in time I will do that. For right now, I have been inspired by some writings that support this definition of graphic design. One of which is by Tim Brown, and he says the following:
“Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional meaning as well as functionality, to express ourselves in media other than words or symbols.”
I say hooray to this addition to my definition because it clearly articulates a fairly ambiguous compound word: Design Thinking. This word is also somewhat trendy these days, like the word “Sustainable” (whose definition can be so loose as to be almost incoherent). Hopefully as time moves forward I’ll be able to collect more pertinent sources of inspiration for my changing and refining definition.