Unit 1: Introduction to Graphic Design

An introduction to graphic design

In the documentary “The Universal Arts of Graphic Design”, PBS Digital Studios describes graphic design as: 

“Though often overlooked, Graphic Design surrounds us: it is the signs we read, the products we buy, and the rooms we inhabit. Graphic designers find beauty within limitations, working towards the ultimate goal of visually communicating a message. Utilizing a language of type and imagery, graphic designers try to make every aspect of our lives defined and beautiful.” 

While this is a good “nutshell” description of graphic design, in contemporary society, design has grown beyond only being a means to organize a visually cluttered environment, or to persuade, inform, and organize an audience to meet the needs of business and industry. 

Design has become the intermediary between information and understanding. Properly applied, effective design—a design that solves specific problems—can influence individual and group behavior, political policy, and even society. While traditionally the term “graphic design” has referred to two-dimensional surface design—the arrangement of text, images, and color to express a message—the discipline has evolved to incorporate three-dimensional objects and spaces, and time-based audio/ visual experiences. As graphic designers now find work in every field from publishing to entertainment, the sciences to finance, and are incorporating traditional media such as print and television with new and emerging technologies such as smartphones and virtual reality, now more than ever, design education is a lifelong endeavor. 

By focusing on the visual communicative fundamentals of art and design, in combination with creative thinking and problem solving as opposed to technology, this course aims to prepare you to be lifelong learners able to thrive as the methods of information communication and consumption continue to change. 

In addition to design studios and advertising agencies, graphic designers also work as in-house talent for companies, for traditional and for new media content creators and publishers, and even as individual entrepreneurs. The practice of design is highly collaborative, and designers frequently work with writers, illustrators, photographers, printers, advertisers, marketers, and other professionals. 

A brief list of careers in graphic design includes:

  • advertising (promotional) design
  • book design
  • book jacket design
  • brand and identity design
  • corporate communication design
  • editorial design
  • environmental design
  • interactive (experience) design
  • Illustration
  • information design
  • motion design
  • package design
  • publication design
  • retail design

Beyond these more traditional roles, designers are finding their creative problem-solving and communication skills in demand in a growing list of industries, including government and public policy, insurance, health care, architecture, environmental services, and engineering

Graphic design is a competitive and ever-evolving profession that offers an expanding and rewarding number of career paths to the curious, determined, and hard-working. One of the key skills all designers must develop is a sensitivity to and awareness of the activity in the larger design community. 

For students just beginning their design education, knowing where to look can be confusing. In addition to traditional periodicals such as Print and Communication Arts, portfolio sites such as Pinterest, DevianArt and Bēhance can expose students to the work of professional and student designers from all over the world.



  1. How did your perspective change after being introduced to graphic design?
  2. How does your designs compare to professional designs?
Remember just because everyone can do it (access to desktop publishing software), doesn’t mean everyone can do it effectively. Learning basic graphic design skills will enable you to become more confident communicators and create effective design solutions.