What’s a graphic designer?

When people learn what I do for a living I’m faced with the inevitable… “oh that’s nice. What’s a graphic designer?”

And I have to admit, I never know what to say!
I’m a professional colour-inner… I make things look pretty… I draw things… And my personal favorite… Alan Rickman was one!

Sure, I design posters. Yes, I do leaflets and flyers. Even the odd website or advertising job. But that’s not really what I do. That’s how I try to quantify it to people as a “real job”.

What I really do is make people think. Open their eyes. Create a platform for people to engage, learn, experience, understand and enjoy. But how do you explain that to someone without sounding like you’ve got a god complex?

I was taught that good graphic design isn’t about making people stop in their tracks and gasp in amazement. It’s about people taking notice and going, “oh, I see what you did there, that’s clever”. Good design is about being invisible.

Take for example the humble road sign. It’s a piece of design. It’s simplistic, it clearly allows us to understand and interpret what we are supposed to do. It gives us all sorts of complex information in a split second. But you don’t stop and admire it. In fact it becomes a normal part of life. It is invisible.

So I guess the best I can come up with is that graphic designers are like the electricity pylons that carry electricity all over the world. Standing tall and silent, subtly demanding your attention now and then. Nobody really considers what they do or how they do it, but yet there they are, communicating and connecting the world. Underpinning everything we take for granted.

And every so often, they do something unexpected, and make you sit up and notice.

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