What Is Graphic Design?

I have to confess that a decade ago I would not be able to answer this question. At the time, I was a technical writer for a small software development company happily writing to my heart’s content. But I felt there was always something missing. I thoroughly enjoyed laying out Word documents (what I eventually learned was creating visual hierarchy) and creating the cover art (which is essentially Graphic Design) but I only got to do that once per document. The rest was all writing technical information for internal and external documentation.

When a Marketing Manager came on board with years of experience in creative agencies doing advertising and design, he recognized my creative talents. He set me up with Adobe Dreamweaver, Photoshop and InDesign. I was able to help do web design for the company’s news articles and had a small part in redesigning the company brochure.

From those days forward, I was hooked. I had to learn more and know how I could do it Full-Time. Those beginnings lead me back to the classroom to pursue a creative career in Graphic Design and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. So what is graphic design?


Most people think of logos when they think of graphic design. They think of Paul Rand’s IBM logo, Carolyn Davidson’s Nike swoosh, Paula Scher’s Citi logo or Ruth Kedar’s Google wordmark.

More recently you also think of all the digital media that flows through our smartphones every day. A designer has had a hand in defining and creating all of those screens and visuals.

Another place to see design is the grocery store. It is full of signage and point of sale displays, package designs, labels, aisle markers (wayfinding) and all of these are created by designers. In fact, when friends and family ask me about what I do, I often tell them that a graphic designer has had a role in creating something for every product consumed or used on a daily basis.

The definition of graphic design from dictionary.com is:

“the art or profession of visual communication that combines images, words, and ideas to convey information to an audience, especially to produce a specific effect.”


At the heart of it all, designers are visual communicators. We listen to what you need, get to know your target market, learn about your product and service offerings and then create visual communications to promote, inform or educate your audience and customers.

Design is a lot more than just sketching ideas and creating logos. And unfortunately, I don’t get to draw all day (except weekends). For design to work best, it is based on a solid business model with a defined purpose. Concept and purpose is more important than making it pretty.

Designers are also problem solvers which is what attracted me to the profession. We are presented with a problem such as getting the word out about an upcoming event and we provide ways to help solve that problem earning companies new fans for their services and products along the way.

Halifax Graphic Designer Tara Joy Andrews

Tara is a Graphic Designer that lives and works in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Aside from her love of design, she also enjoys writing, photography, drawing and everything and anything creative that involves colour. Her blog explores her adventures as a Graphic Designer living a creative career. She hopes to inspire others and motivate people to continually keep raising their creative bar.

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