Graphic design is the use of symbols, colours, shapes, typography and images to communicate to others. Like any other form of art, it involves a wide spectrum of styles that are dictated by each particular designer’s individuality.
There is no single formula or way to do it, and because of this, there are different types of graphic design, each with its own area of specialisation. Despite the fact that they overlap, graphic design requires a particular set of skills and techniques. In most instances, designers specialise in a single type, while others might opt to focus on a set of related/ similar types.
The industry itself is in a constant state of innovation and change, which means that designers must be adaptable and prepared to remain lifelong learners so they can change or add specialisations throughout their careers.
Regardless of whether you are a designer or merely looking to better understand the discipline before hiring a designer, you need to know about the following types of graphic design.
Visual identity graphic design
A brand is not just how a business communicates, whom it targets or what it chooses to stand for; it’s also the colours, shapes, words and unique signatures that visually identify the brand and distinguish it from its competitors in the marketplace. Visual identity graphic design tackles the visual elements of brand identity that are essentially the face of the brand.
Graphic designers that specialise in this type of design collaborate with founders or other brand stakeholders to design assets like logos, typography, colour palettes and image libraries that are a representation of the brand’s personality. Aside from the basic deliverables like business cards and corporate stationery, designers can also develop a visual guide that specifies best practices when designing material for the brand. These guidelines help guarantee brand consistency throughout future applications.
Because visual identity is one of the most common types of graphic design, designers that specialise in this must possess a general knowledge of all types of graphic design in order to combine different design elements. They should also possess excellent communication, conceptual and creative skills, as well as a keen interest in researching industries, organisations, trends and competitors.
Marketing and advertising graphic design.
For most people, their first introduction to graphic design came in the form of marketing and advertising. Companies rely on relevant marketing campaigns to drive demand, inspire loyalty and grow their bottom line. Because people respond more to visually appealing content than just plain words, graphic design is applied to make everything from text to images more attractive to the consumer.
Marketing designers collaborate with company founders, directors, managers and marketing professionals to create content that will be used to promote products/ services and effectively communicate to their target audience. Designers might work alone or in a team and can opt to further specialise in a certain type of media, for instance, vehicle wraps magazine ads or might choose to widen their scope to include print, digital and more.
Examples of marketing graphic design include postcards and flyers, magazine and newspaper ads, posters, banners and billboards, infographics, brochures, vehicle wraps, signage and trade show displays, email marketing templates, PowerPoint presentations, menus, social media ads, images for websites and blogs.
Marketing designers need to possess excellent communication, problem-solving and time management skills. Aside from being proficient in multiple graphic design, layout and presentation apps, they should also muster production for print and online channels.
User interface graphic design
A user interface (UI) refers to how a user interacts with an application or device. UI design is the process of designing in order to make them easy to use and provide a user-friendly experience.
A user interface is composed of everything the user interacts with as they use and navigate different menus and areas on a device, such as buttons, menus, micro-interactions and more. The UI designer must create an appropriate balance between the aesthetic elements and technical functionality.
UI designers typically specialise in designing desktop apps, mobile apps, web apps and games. They collaborate with UX (user experience) designers whose job is to determine how the device works and UI developers whose job is to write the code that makes it work. Examples of user interface graphic design include web page design, theme design (word press, Shopify), game interfaces, App design and others.
Publication graphic design
Publications were previously physically printed and sold or distributed with the main aim of disseminating information to a broad audience. In recent times, most publications are solely online or maintained both online and in print, such as newspapers, magazines, and catalogues.
Graphic designers who specialise in publications graphic design work closely with editors and publishers to design layouts with carefully chosen typography and artwork, including photography, graphics and illustrations. Publication designers must possess excellent communication and layout skills and be highly organised. Their skills shouldn’t be limited to regular graphic design skills but must include an understanding of colour management, printing and digital publishing.
Packaging graphic design
Regardless of what the product is or what purpose it serves, it will require some sort of packaging to protect and preserve it during storage, transportation, and sale. However, the packaging doesn’t only serve a functional role but is also used for marketing.
Packaging designers devise concepts, develop mock-ups and create print-ready files for a product. This design process requires expert knowledge of the printing process and a great understanding of industrial design and manufacturing. Packaging design often incorporates other disciplines like product photography, typography, illustrations and visual identity.
Packaging designers might have the option of specialising in specific aspects of package design like labels, beverage cans or even industry-specific foods. This work requires a designer with high conceptual and problem-solving skills and a working knowledge of print and industrial design.
Motion graphic design
Motion graphics are basically graphics in motion. This can include anything from animation, audio, typography, imagery, video and other effects that are utilised in online media, television and film. With massive technological innovations, this type of graphics design has taken centre stage and become an almost mandatory form of communication for big and small brands alike.
Motion graphics went from being the exclusive reserve of TV and film and became more mainstream as a result of technological advances that made it cheaper, faster and easier to create artwork.
Examples of motion graphics include title sequences and end credits, advertisements, animated logos, trailers, presentations, promotional videos, tutorial videos, websites, apps, video games, banners, GIFs and more.
The process of creating motion graphics typically begins by developing storyboards, and the designer proceeds to bring what has been envisioned to life with animation, video or traditional art.
Depending on the designer’s industry, they might need working knowledge of marketing, coding, and 3D modelling.
Environmental graphic design
Like other types of graphic design, environmental graphic design works to transform the environment into something that’s interesting, visually appealing and communicates important information. Environmental graphic design includes signage, wall murals, museum exhibitions, office branding, public transportation, retail store interiors, stadium branding, event and conference spaces and others.
Wayfinding is a subset of environmental graphic design that consists of strategic signage, landmarks, and visual cues that enable people to identify where they are and where they need to go.
To practice environmental design, designers need a wide scope of knowledge on related subjects such as graphics, architecture, interior design, landscape and industrial design. As a result, designers typically have education and experience covering graphic design and architecture.
Art and illustration for graphic design
In most cases, graphic art and illustration are typically viewed as the same as graphic design, even though they are pretty different. Designers create works to communicate and solve problems, while graphic artists and illustrators create original artwork. Their art can usually take several forms, from fine art to decoration to storytelling illustrations.
Despite the fact that graphic art and illustration are not technically types of graphic design, the work created using these techniques is ubiquitous in graphic design, so much so that you cannot speak about one without the other. Examples of art and illustration for graphic design are T-shirt design, graphic patterns for textiles, motion graphics, stock images, graphic novels, video games, websites, comic books, video games, websites, comic books, album art, book covers, picture books, infographics, concept art and others.
Graphic artists incorporate any combination of media and techniques to create their work in collaboration with writers, editors, managers, marketers and art directors across all design types. These designers often have a foundation in fine arts, animation or even architecture.
Whether you’re interested in pursuing a career in graphic design or simply want to hire the right designer for your project or company, it’s important to know the different types of graphic design you’ll need to bring your creative ideas to life.