What do graphic designers even do, anyway?

Someone recently said to me that they believed my job entailed; “FIDDLING AWAY ON THE COMPUTER AND THEN HAVING MONEY MAGICALLY APPEAR IN MY BANK ACCOUNT”.

As funny as this statement is, it resonated with me and got me thinking about the lack of understanding there is around creative design as a profession. I've been asked numerous times what graphic design actually is. Rather than rattle off a list of daily tasks, I thought it could be better explained by describing the process. Sure, a portfolio is a pretty good gauge of a designer's creative ability. But what else does a graphic designer really bring to the table besides making things look pretty? 

01. PLAN

Before a pencil drawn draft of a logo exists, a wireframe starts to take place or a mood board comes together, designers make a plan. Most business owners will have heard the term ‘If you don’t plan to succeed, you plan to fail’. The same can be said for creative projects. They aren’t a magical product of chaotic imagination and creativity. They are that, built on a foundation of planning and research.


Designers need to be active listeners. Without crafting our skill in listening, we run the risk of not meeting expectations or wasting time. When we listen we interpret. Whether it's creating a brief from a simple phone conversation or making sure we're being thorough in our implementation of feedback, it all comes down to listening. We listen to the industry so we can better our skills. Designers will always listen far more than they speak, because the work should speak for itself. 


This is the part that many people think is the only thing that graphic designers do. We create things, whatever it may be, designers create something out of nothing (or barely anything) and perhaps that’s what makes what we do so mystifying. It's not simply 'making things pretty', it's implementing our plan and solving a problem. The finished product is what represents the creative process and the clients wishes 'in real life' and that's what makes it so exciting.

04. control

Boundless imagination is not uncommon in an industry full of creative thinkers. It's the way that it's controlled that makes the designer. Controlling creativity is what keeps projects from going off the rails so to speak. Often it's what the designer chooses to leave out that takes a project from good to great. It's the point where lateral thinking and attention to detail meet – the 'extra mile' in graphic design land.

Emma FawcettComment