A graphic designer is not a color professional, a photographer, a printer, a web developer, or an artist who creates his or her art following a particular style. It may be said that all these disciplines should be familiar to a designer; yet while this is very true, it may also confuse the definition of a designer as a visual communication specialist.
I had a very interesting online chat with a few colleagues from different countries, and most of them paid special attention to one specific problem, that unfortunately is more important than the time that is spent in its solution. We were discussing how clients see and understand what a graphic designer is and does.
Very often, a designer is asked to make something "prettier" or to "work his magic"; unfortunately, this approach does not make it easy for the designer to create an effective design. The client would benefit from a deeper understanding of the designer's capabilities, going beyond just the aesthetic value of his work.
A designer is the visual communication specialist who will give shape and visual translation to a message, following an extensive process of research and analysis of information. A designer should be able to offer a solution to a visual communication problem and not just organize text and images in a layout.
An Example of Problem Solving
The problem: A client needs to promote college programs for high school students. The message is targeting students from a Latino community.
The solution: A brochure communicating the study opportunities in a way that makes it interesting for the students and their parents.
The efficacy of the message goes beyond simple aesthetics. While the primary audience is the students, a secondary and equally important audience is their parents. They can greatly influence the student's decision of which programs to choose. The development of the project includes the research of symbols, colors, and phrases used or recognized within the culture and history of several Latin-American communities. The resulting look and feel is "cool" enough for students, and at the same time it provides the parents with useful information about the different programs.
To maximize the potential and success of any message, a designer, in-house or freelance, should be part of the team of specialists involved in the project from the very beginning. There should be clear communication about the objectives of the project and the different factors that define the message. The designer should participate by suggesting strategies and an effective use of the different media and capital available.
There could be many different approaches to this process, depending on the project, the client and the message to be conveyed, but the ultimate goal is to implement a general strategy that would make use of the whole potential of talent, knowledge and creativity of a graphic designer in the success of any project.