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Graphic Design

Graphic Design feels like the one talent that all Designers seem to lay claim to, but in truth it is much harder to find a talented Visual Designer than would seem evident on the claims alone. Even the IxDF recognise that perhaps the greatest association with our industry is that garnered by the humble Graphic Designer. Having Lectured, studied and undergone a PhD on the Visual Design discipline of UI, I'm constantly disappointed that this very rare talent is so universally claimed as a skillset by almost every Designer.

Don't be fooled, good Graphic Designers are much more rare than UX, CX and Web Designers are abundant. This article by AIGA on Graphic Design finally does justice to what a Graphic Designer is capable of and what they must learn, it's not the "universal" Design talent many have been led to believe. It's actually as rare as a great singer or a violinist. The nice thing is that it's usually very easy to skip past their claims and head straight to their portfolio, and what you should look for is consistency! Because all Designers have worked beautiful projects, but did they make the visual assets themselves or was it a talented colleague? only a consistent execution of high visual quality can tell.

Various event posters spanning two Brandings of the Henry Halloran Trust organisation A number of cover proposals for the OzCHI conference proceedings The slidedeck of the Henry Halloran Trust's retrospective presentation playing at last year's Annual meeting A glimpse of the presentation template prepared for the Services Connect professional conference

For a Graphic Designer to actually be one of those rare gems in the Design industry that can actually make visual assets look beautiful, they have to merge two things that are not often found in close coupling; "natural" talent and an exhaustive knowledge of Design theory and history. I emphasise "natural" because that's a known misnomer, Design talent is not something people are innately born-with. It is something that is nurtured for a long time and begins with drawing and develops into an experience-fuelled pseudo intuition of how to scale, position and orient elements on a page. A good Designer is someone who has come to understand the complex foundations of Visual Perception steeped in the Cognitive Sciences and who observes the established Design theory derived from the early findings of the experimental Psychology of grouping perception, accumulated - particularly since the 1940's - that would amount to mastery of complex dimensions of Design like Colour control, Layout / page composition, Typography matching and utilisation of negative space.

This understanding, as an additional qualification, has to also simultaneously arrive from reading and from doing, neither one or the other is enough in isolation; a seasoned practitioner can be unaware what scientific factors underlie their judgements and are therefore also incapable of attributing their knowledge as anything more than a gut-feeling; a well-read Designer can accumulate a wealth of understanding, but a lack of intimacy in the act of creation from lived experience will render their ability to implement this understanding short of what they imagine in their minds.

For example we can all imagine a perfect landscape, but our attempts to paint that landscape reveal a lack of familiarity with the movement of the brush in our awkward hands, the unpredictable behaviour of the bristles, the rich and confounding interactions of different coloured paints mixing in unexpected organic ways, all alongside the texture of the canvas that necessitates the build-up of layers to achieve detail. The experience is both new and informative.

Practice ultimately makes perfect, but requires short-term patience and 10+ years of dedication. Designers are not made in Universities and colleges over a few semesters. They are made over decades of both spontaneous and sustained creativity and the refinement of a "Design eye" for detail takes time.

If you've read this far, you know that anything I say about my own skill should be dismissed - as should all Designers who make claims about their Graphic Design ability - in favour of seeing the results for yourself. Inevitably, given the subjectivity of visual preference, some of you may not see the quality you hope to find, in *my* work alone. As a result of a longstanding pursuit, that began with teaching and spread to consultancy, to collect the names of these "rare" talented Graphic Designers I met, moreso because I understood that they combined an uncommon set of conditions and qualities, I can offer here a list of names of just such talented Designers and I would invite you to view their works the same as you might have mine;

  • Aarti D'CRUZ
  • Gabrial PODESTA
  • Lydia BRADSHAW
  • Marvin CHEUNG
  • Rohann DORABJEE

Once you've found that Graphic Designer whose work resonates with your own tastes and aspirations, remember to give them enough freedom to indulge their creativity and surprise you with unexpected outcomes. I say this because providing too rigid a Design brief can constrain the outcomes of this type of creative professional's work and fixate the project on a course that is likely not to work harmoniously with an optimal creative process. If you keep in mind that creativity as a process is as emotional as it is rational, and Visual assets often appeal more to an audience's visceral emotional connection than to their logic alone, you will likely end up with a harmonious marriage between your existing business understanding and a talented Graphic Designer's fresh creative capabilities best reflected in a captivating outcome that hits the (right) message home.

I'm sold

If you decide it's my Design-eye you're after, I'd be all too happy to discuss what you've got in mind and how I might be able to wrap my blend of theory and experience around the problem in the hopes we arrive at a beautiful solution in more ways than one. Shoot me an Email and let me know about your project.