Before I went back to school for graphic design, I must say, I really didn't fully grasp what a designer did. It's kind of funny to think about it now and frankly I'm still learning. I think every designer should be. The field is constantly evolving. What I did know was it was a creative field and that's what I was interested in, creating. I knew a few types of things designers created. Mostly the more high profile design work, but I had no idea how broad a field it really was, the scope of work it included and how designers arrived at their solutions.
Maybe you are or have been in a similar spot to me. You might have asked yourself at one point in time, "what exactly is graphic design and what does a designer really do?" It is easy to think that a designer is just there to make things look "pretty." I'll have to admit from a designer's perspective that is often what is appealing about it, especially in the beginning. We all are compelled to look at things that attract our eyes and we spend more time looking at things we find aesthetically pleasing. I think most people would agree that something well designed is appealing to look at whether we would use the word "pretty" to describe it or not. The problem is, if you're the one who will be paying for the so-called pretty design it can quickly lose your interest if you don't understand the valuable good design.
Defining Graphic Design
So what is graphic design? Many definitions out there say similar things. Graphic design is the visual communication of ideas. To break it down a little more, there are 3 parts to this that can be defined individually.
Adjective: of or relating to seeing or sight.
Noun: a picture, piece of film, or display used to illustrate or accompany something.
The imparting or exchanging of information or news.
Means of connection between people or places.
A thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action.
A concept or mental impress, opinion or belief, aim or purpose.
Design is More than Aesthetics
Even though the definition states that graphic design is visual it doesn't mean that it is beautiful to you. It is something we can see that illustrates or accompanies an exchange or information to connect people to a thought, concept, belief or purpose.
Still the question that begs to be answered is, what makes design good or effective? Much of the focus behind graphic design is on communication. Its beauty is subjective, but even when viewed as ugly it still communicates something. I'll use music as an example. It's almost a standard in the metal music genre to use sinister looking, jagged edged letters for the name of the group in white on a black background giving it a high contrast harshness as a visual representation. If you're into this genre you may find these elements at least appealing if not beautiful. If you aren't, those elements still accomplish their purpose by signifying the tone that a metal band is trying to communicate therefore making it effective. Good, in this sense, is not creating a design that is visually appealing to everyone. It is good because it communicated the correct message with correct perception gaining, most importantly, the attention of the correct audience. Good design is not about what is popular or just simply modern, but visually portraying a clear and concise message to capture the attention of those who are interested in what you have to offer.
The Real Value of Good Design
So, are you still wondering why good design is valuable to your business? What I have learned is that the message that these visual concepts can reflect is the unique story or your business: its values and mission to which connect you to your audience. In the case of the metal band that means metal music genre fans. Whether your business is a band trying to get the word out about their upcoming show or album, a theater advertising their new productions, a restaurant in need of complete visual identity, from small businesses to large corporation, you have a target audience. All of these are trying to get their message across in a way that reflects their personal tone and gain the attention of the appropriate audience. Of course, all of this is only the first step. The truth is, although graphic design might be a mystery to you, your business might remain a mystery to your potential audience without the clarity that good design can afford you.
Design is more important than ever today and a big reason for good design is that today's consumer first judges almost exclusively on their visual perception of a business. That's why first impressions are important. If the design doesn't resonate with the audience you would like to attract or there is a lack of design altogether you won't resonate with them either and mostly like you will lose their interest and their business.
TRUST & CONSISTENCY
If you want to attract and keep customers you first need to gain their trust and that is possible through good design used consistently. Consistency makes you memorable and recognizable. It shows professionalism because you cared enough to invest in your visual reputation and sweat the details.
Another part of good design is creativity. Other than the unique services your business provides, creativity in your visual identity can set you apart from your competition, again making you memorable and engaging customers. These customers, who believe you are trustworthy because your visual reputation is consistent and creatively speaks to them, are more likely converted to sales whether right away, down the road or both.
TAKE DESIGN SERIOUSLY SO YOU WILL BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY
All this leads to the tangible value of good design. Studies have shown that good design can return more than double the amount that was invested. Freelance writer, Erin Sanchez said her article, 6 Reasons Small Businesses Should Make Graphic Design a Priority, "When businesses don't take graphic design seriously in the beginning, they will more than likely go through a design overhaul eventually - in some cases more than once...Paying for great graphic design one time is no more expensive than paying for subpar design multiple times." I know it's easy to be blinded by the cost of something when you may not fully understand its value to you, but it is an investment in the image and reputation of your business to make it value.