Busting 5 myths about graphic design
If you’re considering studying graphic design, you may have heard a few rumours. What defined the field a few decades ago—physical work, careful consideration before experimentation, significant time and effort for a handful of options—no longer defines it now. It’s now a wilderness of endless possibilities and single commands. Marketing strategies are evolving, and automation is closing in. What can you expect as you enter a new field in a new decade?
Fortunately, many of the rumours you’ve heard don’t stand up to close inspection. Bottom line: Graphic design is here to stay.
Here are some myths to dispel as you get started on your graphic design career path.
1. Graphic design will not be eliminated by AI
Graphic design tasks will certainly become more automated, and already are.
“Today, we’re on the verge of another revolution, as artificial intelligence and machine learning turn the graphic design field on its head again,” says designer and educator Jason Tselentis. “The vision is, to quote one project’s slogan, ‘websites that just make themselves.’ Software will evaluate your text content, line of business, and imagery, and spit out finished pages without you having to lift a finger. These kinds of automated tools will arrive on the web first, but print design will change, too, as design-software makers inject machine learning into their layout tools and apps.”
However, graphic design itself will stick around for the long haul. It’s the human element of thinking outside the box, pursuing creative and spontaneous ideas, and fine-tuning the results that can’t be automated. Entry-level jobs in the industry may become obsolete, but when it comes to innovations based on creative insight, graphic designers will be some of the most important players in the game.
2. Graphic design isn’t just for artists
You don’t need to be an arts major to become a graphic designer. You don’t even need to be a visual learner, per se. It’s more about your eye for detail, your ability to organise and curate various options, and your thirst for variety and rapid change.
“In the next desktop publishing revolution, users will step back from hands-on labor and let the software generate ideas and plans,” says Tselentis. “In this world, design work will become more like curation and management. Our tools will propose designs, and we will decide what works.”
Are you good at multi-tasking and managing multiple ideas? Do you thrive on fine-tuning details and improving results? These may be better indicators of your suitability for graphic design than whether or not you’re an artist.
3. Graphic design is not secondary to marketing
You will hear some industry veterans and trend forecasters say that companies who spend 20% on marketing and 80% on graphic design fare worse than companies who spend 80% on marketing and 20% on graphic design, but there are plenty of real-life examples showing the equal importance of both.
In 2017, Milan-based design agency Ogilvy & Mather teamed up with Nutella manufacturer Ferrero to create seven million “Unico” Nutella jars, each with a unique logo and sold only in Italy. The jars sold out in just one month. Customers provided momentum to the campaign by creating videos and social media posts, showing off their unique jar. The Nutella campaign was possible thanks to a graphic design algorithm that generated labels with different colors and patterns.
Marketing may have moved beyond the strictly visual, but people will always love personalisation, which can still be achieved very efficiently through visual means.
4. Current software isn’t as disruptive as you think
Although there are some major projects underway in the graphic design and AI field—including Adobe’s Sensei facial recognition software, Google’s Deep Dream technology, ColorMind’s colour palette tool, the photo quality app Let’s Enhance, and the drawing tool AutoDraw—we still have a long way to go before we can create the perfect customised website by snapping our fingers.
“For all the noise about AI-driven graphic design,” Tselentis says, “today’s reality lags stubbornly behind the grand vision. Many of the products now available will disappoint users expecting miraculous results from AI genies. That’s a letdown, for sure, but it also gives us some time to think about what kind of design work we want machines to do for us, and what roles we should be reserving for human beings.”
5. Graphic design doesn’t sit still
You might think of typography or stock photos when you imagine graphic design, but its defining characteristic is that it’s always shifting, changing, evolving—and that means it’s multi-modal. Graphic Designers also make use of video, social media, flat design and 3D design, minimal and augmented design, motion graphics and .gifs, and more. These methods ebb and flow in popularity depending on the current consumer climate. If you have a natural interest in the way people’s interests, learning preferences, and needs change with the times, you’ll be well-prepared for a journey in graphic design.
Graphic designers are in high demand, and that won’t change with the rise of automation. Still, securing your place in the field now is a smart idea, as it will only become more competitive in the next decade. It’s an exciting time to brand yourself and stand out, however. As you build your tool kit and take on new projects, consider what problems you can solve as a graphic designer that help make the world a better place.
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Author: Saga Briggs. Saga Briggs is a journalist covering trends in learning, creativity, intelligence, and educational technology. Follow her @SagaMilena