Why Today’s Graphic Design Means More Than Just Pretty Things

We live in a visual society that is in a continuous change and in which to success the visual perception plays an essential role. We already know that it’s not enough to have a great product or service without the proper presentation. Graphic design has always been and continues to be an excellent form of communication and like many other things it evolved, so is the “graphic design” term still enough?

Multidisciplinary Designer

No designer deals with just the graphic part of a project these days because most of them are multidisciplinary designers. When a new project is started it includes more than just the drawing process.
Regardless of the project type, a generous time should be allocated researching the best strategy so the concept to be in line with the target audience. Therefore, culture and ethnicity must be taken into account so the right style, colors, photos, typography and the right composition need to be chosen accordingly for a successful result. Everything must be chosen and set in such a way to make you feel a certain emotion and influence you in a certain way. Functionality must have logic, be intuitive, efficient and also should be presented in a professional way that highlights the key points and so on.

A single graphic designer can cover several disciplines or often collaborates with other designers in an attempt to provide customers a wider range of design services, but under the general term of “graphic design services”, although the “graphic” word communicates much less than what is offered. There were many discussions on this topic, and some designers are still feeling offended if they’re tagged/labeled as “graphic designers”.

Others took action

The role of the graphic designer has extended far beyond the areas of visual identity, typography and design for print. The rapid and continual evolution of “graphic design” has prompted international discussion regarding the appropriateness of the term itself. At the 2005 AGIdeas Conference in Melbourne, Vince Frost of Emery Frost Design said, “The term graphic design is far too limiting for what we do. It does not say enough.”

The International Council of Graphic Design Associations (Icograda) recently opened discussion on a name change for the profession. It acknowledged that there is a definite move away from the term “graphic design”. Most educational institutions around the world have already made name changes to their graphic design courses. The terms visual communication and communication design appear to be the preferred replacements. In fact, visual communication has already entered the vernacular of Icograda, with their literature stating, “Icograda is the professional world body for graphic design and visual communication.” Icograda continually uses these two terms together as if undergoing a transitional phase. Perhaps this is one indication that the term graphic design is on the way out.

You can read the whole article directly on Icograda where it can be seen that dates back to 2006. They actually changed their name from “The International Council of Graphic Design Associations” to “International Council of Communication Design”. AIGA also changed their name from “AIGA – American Institute of Graphic Arts” to “AIGA – the professional association for design”.

The “American Institute of Graphic Arts” seems to be a limited description that fails to accurately describe the varied backgrounds of the people that AIGA represents. Suggestions from members have ranged from revising the profession description (communication design, graphic design, information design) to the geographic boundaries (national, international, global) to the actual entity of AIGA itself (association, organization, group).

Graphic Designer vs Visual/Communication Designer

As mentioned before there were some heated discussions on a few forums and blogs regarding this topic, that the “graphic designer” term should be replaced with a more complete term as “visual communication designer” or just “communication designer”. Even so, to tell someone that you are a communication designer when you’re asked “what you do?” then you would have some explanation to give but at least the one who asked will understand that you are doing more than just good looking things.

So although there have been some discussions for a few years it seems that nothing major has changed yet. The most popular term used is still “graphic designer” followed by the “visual designer” term which is more used in some regions and also by some companies in their job description. Of course the second term can be debatable as well because if for example, beside the packaging design you also have minimal knowledge of package/dieline design for a simple box, this does not make you an industrial designer. Certainly this takes you a bit out of the visual discipline. In the industrial design it’s not all about the visual element but also about right measurements so that the aesthetic aspect to blend with the functionality.

All these terms are open to interpretation and everyone has his own “definition”. For example on a simple search on google for “UX design” term we find different “definitions” in which it is a subset for visual design or not.
Icograda also changed their name again from “International Council of Communication Design” to just “International Council of Design” ico-D.


However, one thing is certain and the graphic designer as we know it has evolved a lot. Many things seem so normal now and become a requirement for a graphic designer to do, which a few years ago were considered separate disciplines. Now more and more are incorporated and considered subsets of graphic design and for this reason there is also the disappointment that the “graphic designer” term it’s not enough. Maybe we shouldn’t be concerned about the term itself and instead we should focus on giving it a new meaning and a better definition so that way everyone can understand that nowadays “graphic design” is more complex than it sounds.