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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Graphic artists at work during the 1960s
Graphic artists at work during the 1960s

A category of fine art, graphic art covers a broad range of visual artistic expression, typically two-dimensional, i.e. produced on a flat surface.[1] The term usually refers to the arts that rely more on line or tone than on colour, especially drawing and the various forms of engraving;[2] it is sometimes understood to refer specifically to printmaking processes,[2] such as line engraving, aquatint, drypoint, etching, mezzotint, monotype, lithography, and screen printing (silk-screen, serigraphy).[3] Graphic art further includes calligraphy, photography, painting, typography, computer graphics, and bindery. It also encompasses drawn plans and layouts for interior and architectural designs.[1]

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  • The Universal Arts of Graphic Design | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios
  • Graphic Arts
  • How to Create Graphic Art in Photoshop


First and foremost, graphic design has to communicate something. But good graphic design makes people's lives better. You have to find a way to make sense of how to make something beautiful and, to me, you're speaking for them. As a graphic designer, concept is the first thing; idea and life. Graphic design is essentially a language for living. Graphic design is about using words and images to convey a message. Graphic designers have to know a lot about color theory, typography, how to create a grid. But those are all really basic. You have to be somebody that is really interested in understanding human behavior, being able to understand how they think, how they choose, how they buy, how they believe. People probably don't think about how much graphic design impacts them. We use graphic design to cross the street, to decide what we want to eat and how much we want to eat. We use graphic design to pay our bills, to get married. We use graphic design to get divorced. We use graphic design in every single aspect of human life right now and people tend to like things best when they feel that they are respected by that thing. But I think, ultimately, if it moves you, whether it be a good emotion or a bad emotion, chances are that it's effective because it's getting you to think about something and it's getting you to potentially take action. When I work on package design I like for there to be an idea behind it. I like for there to be some wit, some language, some feeling that there is a human hand behind what you are interacting with. Like, for instance, matchbooks are one of my favorite things to design. It's this nice intimate moment between you and the smoker or candlelighter because you have the reveal that can be completely surprising. For the Spice Market, we turned them into these little incense boxes. I like to think about the product like I'm the consumer. So, when we were working on the kleenex project, we learned that, for some people, choosing which pattern on the box to take home is a huge part of their day. So, I think about what would give me a moments pleasure when interacting with that thing. The Mercer Hotel was a really interesting project that was very clean and very understated and witty. And not necessarily witty in the design but also witty in the language. Like, for instance, there's always that sign on the bathrobe that says "If you take it, you're going to have to pay for it." But we didn't want to say that in such a crass way, so we just made a sign that very simply said "disrobe" and then, when you turned it over, it said "is available for purchase in the lobby." And, so, sometimes maybe beautiful isn't exactly what it should be. Maybe it needs to be quirky or maybe it needs to be ugly or maybe it needs to be invisible. So, I think you're always solving what it has to look like visually based on what it needs to be conceptually. A lot of times when people talk about signage and environmental graphics they think that it always involves letters but it really involves landmarks, creating a moment that somebody remembers and immediately understands. Graphic designers aren't trained necessarily to think in dimension but you do need to identify things within space that the architecture wouldn't necessarily be doing otherwise; through color and type and light. Working on the signage for Bloomberg's offices, they wanted people to use the stairs. We thought if people are intended to use this space, why don't we at least make it interesting to use. If you can make the space interesting people will want to be there. It really involves creating a moment that somebody remembers and immediately understands. Bridge designs are decorations that we have proposed for the city of Pittsburgh and our proposal was to, essentially, make those moments special moments. So it could just be a paint job or it could be using light in a certain way to highlight that feature as a gateway to the north side. Every building has a timeline of your experience with it. What's the cover of this book and then how does that play out as one navigates through the space where your mind actually solves the problem. So, there's a process of discovery there. Should you judge a book by its cover? I would really like to say yes, but I think that there's a lot of really good books out there that don't have good covers. My guiding philosophy in design is forever going to change, I think. You have to understand the responsibility you have in terms of there's someone at the end of the line there that actually cares about what you're doing and you have to give it a voice. I never like to pin myself down to one different style and, to me, that's what's fun about design as opposed to an illustrator's style. You can wear different hats. The artistic expression, that is the art of it. Getting into the mind of a book, expressing what the book is about, making it beautiful and grabbing people's attention. You always care about what are you reading first and that's based on contrast of size, contrast of color, is the title more important than the author, can you read it from across the store or not. You know, these are the things that I think about on a daily basis. You have to understand where this book fits in the world of books. The Day the World Ends is a poetry book and here's an example of well, what do you focus on? You have all these different poems that are about different things so I broke the type up a little bit and the author just connected with it. If you love the content, you want something to come up in your head when you think about it. So, any successful book cover is something that you want to hold in your hand. It's unexpected, smart, and beautiful but at the end of the day you just want to put it on your book shelf face out because it means something to you. We use graphic design now in many ways to convey who we are as people, to define affiliations, to signal beliefs. If you can contribute to making peoples lives a little bit better and elevating the general level of design, then why not? If you know how you want to make them feel, that's the most important thing. You just want to make something memorable. I say, do what you think is right and interesting and smart and then worry about what the survey says.



Throughout history, technological inventions have shaped the development of graphic art. In 2500 BC, the Egyptians used graphic symbols to communicate their thoughts in a written form known as hieroglyphics. The Egyptians wrote and illustrated narratives on rolls of papyrus to share the stories and art with others.[4]

During the Middle Ages, scribes manually copied each individual page of manuscripts to maintain their sacred teachings. The scribes would leave marked sections of the page available for artists to insert drawings and decorations. Using art alongside the carefully lettered text enhanced the religious reading experience.[5]

Johannes Gutenberg invented an improved movable type mechanical device known as the printing press in 1450, the first outside of Asia. His printing press facilitated the mass-production of text and graphic art and eventually, replaced manual transcriptions altogether.

Again during the Renaissance years, graphic art in the form of printing played a major role in the spread of classical learning in Europe. Within these manuscripts, book designers focused heavily on typeface.

Due to the development of larger fonts during the Industrial Revolution, posters became a popular form of graphic art used to communicate the latest information as well as to advertise the latest products and services.

The invention and popularity of film and television changed graphic art through the additional aspect of motion as advertising agencies attempted to use kinetics to their advantage.

The next major change in graphic arts came when the personal computer was invented in the twentieth century. Powerful computer software enables artists to manipulate images in a much faster and simpler way than the skills of board artists prior to the 1990s. With quick calculations, computers easily recolor, scale, rotate, and rearrange images if the programs are known.[4]

The scientific investigations into legibility has influenced such things as the design of street signs. New York City is in the process of changing out all of its street signs bearing all capital letters for replacement with signs bearing only upper and lower case letters. They estimate that the increased legibility will facilitate way-finding and reduce crashes and injuries significantly.

Graphic design software

Example of graphic arts created with the free tool,
Example of graphic arts created with the free tool,

Graphic artists applying for positions in today's job market are expected to be familiar with computers and a variety of software programs in order to create the most appealing, up to date designs.

Graphic art software includes applications such as:

  • Adobe Dreamweaver – a tool that facilitates the creation of webpages and dynamic internet content
  • Adobe Illustrator – an application that allows artists to manipulate vector graphics
  • Adobe InDesign – desktop publishing software used for layout and design manipulation
  • Adobe Photoshop – a bitmap graphics software including powerful graphics editing tools that provide a large variety of editing functionality
  • CorelDRAW – similar to Adobe Illustrator, it is another vector graphic manipulation tool
  • PhotoImpact – a digital photograph editor
  • QuarkXPress – similar to Adobe InDesign, it is another computer publishing software tool

Free software

  • – photograph editing capabilities with lots of plugins to expand use
  • GIMP – similar to and Photoshop
  • Inkscape – similar to Illustrator

Beside computers and software, graphic artists are also expected to be creative with processing camera work, registration, crop marks, and masking.[5]


One of the most common career paths for a graphic artist today is web design. With the popularity of the World Wide Web, the demand for web designers is immense. Graphic artists use their creativity with layouts, typography, and logos to market the products or services of the client’s business. In addition to creating graphical designs, graphic artists also need to understand hypertext, web programming, and web page maintenance in order to successfully create a web page.[5] The responsibility for effective communication also falls under the auspices of the graphic designer.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Graphic art." Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2016-02-21.
  2. ^ a b "Graphic art." The Oxford Dictionary of Art. 3rd ed. Ed. Ian Chilvers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. p. 309.
  3. ^ Mayer, Ralph (1992). "Graphic arts, or graphics." The HarperCollins Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques. 2nd ed. Revised and edited by Steven Sheehan. New York: Harper Perennial. p. 182.
  4. ^ a b Meggs, Philip B. (2014-03-05). "Graphic design". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2016-02-21.
  5. ^ a b c McGuire-Lyle, Erin. Careers in the Graphic Arts and Computer Graphics (Career Resource Library). June 2000. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 1999.
This page was last edited on 24 September 2018, at 23:43
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