Graphic Design Elements and Work

Graphic Designers Combine Art and Technology

Young woman reviewing design mockups on floor
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The process and art of combining text and images and communicating an effective message in the design of logos, graphics, brochures, newsletters, posters, signs, web pages, books and any other type of visual communication is the formal, short definition of graphic design.

A graphic designer may do all or almost all these things or specialize in one or more areas—such as primarily logo design or only web design. Today's graphic designers typically use publishing software to achieve their goals.

Elements of Graphic Design

Graphic designers for print and web work with images, lines, typography, textures, color, lighting contrasts, and shapes. They use some or all of these elements to create a cohesive whole that speaks to an audience to achieve a certain result—usually attracting the viewers' attention and sometimes motivating them to take an action. 

Principles of Graphic Design

The principles of graphic design address ways in which a graphic designer can assemble the individual elements into a cohesive whole. Designers often use scale or proportion to draw the viewer's attention to an important element, for example. They can accomplish the same goal by placing the important element in the place where the eye naturally falls. Other classic principles of design include:

Learning to Be a Graphic Designer

There is no shortage of 2-year associate and 4-year bachelor's degrees available in the field of graphic design. People who can't commit to a lengthy formal education have other options. There are plenty of design articles and free or paid online classes. Anyone who knows someone in the right field can gain on-the-job experience by interning at a publishing, public relations or advertising firm with a graphic design department. 

High school students who are interested in becoming graphic designers can get a head start on the competition by taking any art or design classes offered at their school, particularly any in the software programs that are standard in the creative industry.

Qualities of Graphic Artists

Graphic artists must be good communicators because they work with clients and other designers constantly. Graphic artists need to be creative and able to come up with new ways to interest viewers and readers. Time management skills come in handy for graphic artists who usually work on multiple projects at the same time and must manage deadlines. Most graphic designers need to be able to use specialized graphic design software.


These are a few of the industry-standard page layout, web page, illustration and photo editing software programs. 

  • Adobe's InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Muse
  • Corel's CorelDraw, Painter, and Website Creator
  • Gimp and Inkscape open source software

Many other software programs and utilities are available to graphic artists. Because the internet is a big part of the market for graphic design, basic knowledge of the web and HTML are helpful even to graphic designers who don't plan to specialize in web design.

Graphic design isn't as much about how the software you use to create a finished product as it is about the effectiveness of that product. A brochure that makes watching boiling water seem exciting or a business card that entices the recipient to call instead of toss it out owes at least part of its success to good graphic design—it doesn't matter if it was created with the latest hot software or an old ink pen.