The Lowdown on Graphic Design


Contributed by Logan Rhea

What Is It? Why is it Wrongly Underemphasized in Small Businesses? And Why You Shouldn’t Just Design It Yourself. 

More often than not, I run into someone who asks me what I do for a living and when I tell them I’m a graphic designer I either get one of two responses: “Oh, that’s cool. So, what does that mean?” or, my personal favorite, “Oh, nice! So you design websites?” There are a lot of facets to graphic design and that can make understanding what it fully entails (and why it is important) not always easy.  

Now, I could give you a whole spiel about the history of graphic design and how it’s been around for a very, very long time — and I’m talking back to the Middle Ages — and throw around some fancy design words like visual communication, CMYK and typography in a bunch of sentences that fly right over your head, but that doesn’t help anyone. So what IS it? Why don’t people know about it? Why is it mistakenly seen as lackluster in many small businesses? And why do we recommend that you don’t just design it yourself?

To put it simply, walk down the isles at Walmart; most everything you see has been touched by a graphic designer: the logos, the packaging, the shelf markers, the signs that hang over your head, the pop up displays, the price stickers… I could go on. Graphic design includes things like logo design/branding, business cards, brochures, tradeshow booths, banners, restaurant menus, table covers, table tents, exterior signage, book illustration/formatting, ad design, billboards, t-shirts, magazines, websites, social media graphics, etc., etc., etc. Graphic designers design graphics. Simple, right? Wrong. 

Professional design work is notoriously underemphasized in small businesses and when times get tough or resources are limited, the creative budget seems to be among the first things that get cut. Many small business owners aren’t willing to pay for professional services thinking their assistant can work up a quick logo or design their brochure. Clients often say they can just design things themselves. Technically you could design it yourself, but you could also cut your grass with scissors – and why would you want to do that?

Graphic designers use programs created specifically for design such as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, which help us create professional work at a quicker, more efficient pace. We can produce higher-quality work for various projects. And they do vary — print and digital require completely different sets of parameters — and as designers in the field – we now those parameters – which is a huge benefit to you. Like everything, there are certain no-nos when designing and an untrained person can unknowingly miss these. Do you know what kerning is… or leading… or tracking? What about the difference between CMYK and RGB? What about alignment or how to properly export your project based on its intended purpose? Not only will utilizing a professional designer free you up to do what you do best, but it can also save you money in the long run. Good design really does matter and consumers pay attention.

Coming Next: How Graphic Design Can Impact Your Business