Prior to graduate school I believed that graphic design was logos and typography. Sure I understood that designers created websites, art directed, and designed layouts, but illustrators viewed graphic design with suspicion. In the illustration world there is the idea that illustrators create the content and designers create the cover. Of course, that statement is both demonstrably and offensively false. Silly illustrators, you can have the most wonderful activities planned to do on a cruise ship, but the boat has to float. It really doesn’t hurt if the ship looks good doing it too.
There were stories over shared drinks of how some designer butchered the equivalent of Rockwell’s Four Freedoms. The punch line of these stories usually involved a cropping nightmare that would have been better handled by a blindfolded monkey tossing gardening shears. Of course, it couldn’t be that the designer was trying to salvage what material they had to work with to fit the client’s needs more than the illustrator’s ego.
However, this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what graphic design actually is. Personally, I started evaluating my strengths and weaknesses as an illustrator. I wanted to be better and noticed that efficiency was an issue in my work. So I started to re-evaluate design as it applied to illustration. How to improve my composition through design was something I explored. Relearning size relationships and understanding the beauty of tension. As I started this exploration by looking at other illustrators, I began to realize the sheer beauty and efficiency that graphic designers approached these same problems.
The question, “What is Art?” was asked in my illustration class in grad school at Hartford. My instructor replied art is communication. I enjoy that answer because it rings true to me. Illustration is storytelling, and before I took this particular class I believed that graphic design was a sentence, a command, or a visual word. Simplicity through efficiency maximizing visual memorability is what design was to me. That definition has changed for me a bit. I now see design as education. It is communication meant to inform. The exit sign is important as the balloon packaging given the context of the moment. Don’t believe me tell the child who doesn’t have balloons at their birthday. Education is not design, but design is education. All visual information for better or worse passes through its hallowed gates either with the care it deserves or the catapult of negligence. I am proud to say that I am a designer, and hope I am worthy of the responsiblity of what being a graphic designer implies.