Graphic Design In Print
by Robert Tan
What Is Graphic Design?
You are surrounded by examples of Graphic Design wherever you go – the packaging of your burger, the shopping bag you carry, the brochure your browse through and even the newspaper you read. Graphic Designers have a part to play in conceptualizing, designing and executing the way all these things look. In a nutshell, a Graphic Designer produces work which visually represents the Client.
To further clarify this, let’s use the example of a client who wants a company logo designed. A good Graphic Designer will design a logo that represents the qualities and characteristics that the client’s firm represents. Then, the same design treatment is carried through with other materials that the client needs. For example, a company that sells camping equipment comes to you and says they need a logo, company stationery, and eventually, a brochure that they can hand out, telling people what they sell.
You should know how to conceptualize the design required. For instance, a design style that is rugged may be more suitable than something slick and glossy. The logo could look like a woodcut, hinting at treebark – back to the outdoors theme. The colours may be more earthy – back to the theme again. The fonts you use would also reflect these characteristics. On the stationery, you could use a hand-stamped, tree-outline motif to subtly suggest the outdoors theme again, and in the brochure, you could use design elements that bring the theme to mind again – leaves, twigs, colour, animals, a campfire, whatever is relevant. That’s up to your creativity! You should know how to design page layout, using space, type, images, colour and the like as your tools. Even the type of paper you use can make a difference. The possibilities are infinite, and it is your job, as a Graphic Designer, to translate these possibilities into the printed form for your client.
Do You Have What It Takes?
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are considering becoming a home-based Graphic Designer:
1. Do you have any experience working as a Graphic Designer?
How much experience is enough? One person’s three-year career can mean a portfolio brimming with exciting work while that of another will not be worth a squeak. You can never get enough experience, especially when technology changes so quickly. As a minimum, in the world of print design, you should have executed a variety of jobs, for example corporate ID and stationery, brochure, advertisement, annual report and booklets from concept to delivery, which would have exposed you to the different facets of conceptualizing and designing, dealing with the client, colour separation, film-making, colour-proofing and overseeing the final print job.
2. Do you have any experience dealing with production facilities, such as filmmakers and printers?
Do you know what the filmmaker is talking about when he uses terms like spot colours, image resolution, dpi, lpi, tonal percentages, bleeds and the like? If there are random white dots on the final printed media, would you know the cause? Some designers recommend that you work for at least a year in the printing line in order to learn more about the industry and pick up technical knowledge that no art school will teach. Otherwise, work in a design house and follow the Art Director on trips to these facilities so you can learn more. Ask lots of questions!
3. Can you work by yourself, without someone watching over you and prodding you towards reaching deadlines?
Having to work in relative isolation, you will need to be proactive, resourceful, responsible and very disciplined in order to be a good one-person-show designer.
4. Are you meticulous and careful about your work?
There’s nobody to check up on you if you slip up. After working intensively on a project over a period of time, some designers lose the objectivity required to spot their own mistakes. Working on your own means checking for things like using the right logo for your client, making sure the colours are right, checking for spelling mistakes in headlines and text and ensuring that your client’s name and contact information are correct.
5. Do you have some existing clients who are willing to give you work, or are you just waiting to launch yourself into the market?
There are many ways to market your work, but starting from scratch is not easy. Many designers’ initial steps into the freelancing world began with one or two jobs on the side while they were holding down day jobs. This enabled them to gain some experience, confidence and financial security until they felt they were able to set off completely on their own.
6. Do you have ideas on how to market yourself and your work?
From websites to flyers, there are many ways to get yourself noticed and attract potential clients. (see Marketing Yourself)
7. Are you able to organize your time efficiently to deal with the many different types of tasks you will have to perform?
At times, you will find yourself swatting flies, and at others, just struggling to catch a breath. You will need to multitask – answer the phone, deal with your client, do the work (juggling different projects), file, fax, type and pay bills all in a day.