Defining the Undefinable

What is graphic design?


The simplest way to define graphic design is to say that it is "visual communication".  If we break it down even further we have visual and communication.  I like this definition because it is broad and open for interpretation, just like I have found the field of graphic design to be. Whenever I tell people that I am a graphic designer they always say "Oh, so like digital stuff" or "Oh, so like posters".  But graphic design is so much more than something on the computer or a poster. For me, graphic design is the intersection of three things: visualization, communication, and design thinking.  First, visualization. Visual means anything having to do with seeing, but in terms of design, I think visualization can mean much more. It is the visualization of an idea, but that can sometimes happen without a person seeing anything at all. Second, communication. Communication is essential, and it is important to note that communication is an exchange of information, which means it has to go both ways. The best graphic design is experienced as an exchange between the design and the observer. Third, design thinking or the process of finding and fulfilling opportunities. Meld these three things together, and that's how I would define graphic design...for now. 


But, I could revisit my personal definition of graphic design a hundred times and it would change each time. My perception of graphic design is changing everyday that I am a designer. The only constant, for now, is that I believe graphic design is visual communication that creates a narrative that influences behavior. All of these things are very vast and broad. Visual communication can take form many different ways, even by not taking form. And influencing behavior can mean anything. That is why defining graphic design is so difficult. It is a discipline that is composed of many different disciplines. One day it might be taking photographs, "oh, so you're a photographer?". Or it might be illustrating, "oh, so you're an illustrator?". Or it might be animating, "oh, so you're an animator?". Or it might be researching, "oh, so you're a researcher?". And the answer to all of these questions would be yes and no. Being a graphic designer means that you are adaptable. At the core, you are visually communicating a narrative that influences behavior. You will do anything to accomplish this, learn anything, utilize any tool at your disposal despite if it fell under your degree plan of "graphic design".  Being a graphic designer means you will figure it out.