Art of graphic design: from thought to digital design

Ever wonder how graphic design works, where the ideas behind the designs come from or how the creative process works for a graphic designer? From commercial advertisements to personal fashion pieces, graphic design is everywhere. And with the rise of Photoshop-like apps and other technological advancements, anyone with a phone and Wi-Fi can become an artist. However, there’s much more that goes into these designs than meets the eye.

Zewald’s designs on cards. Photo courtesy of Kendall Zewald.

Kendall Zewald, a senior health sciences major with a minor in graphic design, explained aspects of this art from inspiration and technology, to hard work and communication. Starting out as a child who loved to draw and paint anything she could, Zewald has grown over the years to focus on editorial design, web design and fashion design. These include shirts, cards, decor, personal websites or any other creative projects she can get her hands on.

Kendall Zewald rocks a shirt she designed for her sorority. Photo courtesy of Kendall Zewald

So how does one approach design?

“A graphic designer takes something and presents it in a better way,” Zewald said. She describes the process as “creative problem-solving.”

One key difference, she explains, is that an artist’s goal is to portray emotion, while a designer’s goal is to deliver a specific message to their audience. According to SpeckyBoy Magazine, a graphic design magazine, artists “aim to inspire feeling,” while designers are all about motivating an audience to do something or act in a certain way. Using words like “purposeful” and “intentional” to describe her design process, Zewald wants to make every aspect of her designs count.

In terms of creative programs and tools, graphic designers use anything from pen and paper to the latest version of Adobe Creative Suite. Such digital computer programs include InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. Zewald says she feels that hand-making her work isn’t as limiting as the tools on the digital programs.

“Technology has completely changed the game. It’s also important to note how technology’s capability to spread information and allow designers to have so much at their fingertips has given us the ability to be inspired by work from around the world every minute of the day,” Zewald said.

Nonetheless, Zewald said the design process itself is still highly demanding.

Designers spend a large amount of time on projects from start to finish. First, research must be done on the message they want to send. Then comes inspiration, whether that’s making mood boards, sketching, reading or seeking anything influential for their piece.

A piece of decor designed by Zewald. Photo courtesy of Kendall Zewald

“I’m inspired by what’s going on in my life. Without intention, much of my character has been built on the idea of contrast and going outside the box,”  Zewald said.

One of Zewald’s design professors, Rachelle Chuang, described Zewald’s aesthetic as, “It shouldn’t work but it so does.”

Next comes the work. Cutting, mounting or whatever the deliverable entails for the design. But in the end, every piece has different requirements, so it’s difficult to put a time stamp on it.

Lastly, to the aspiring graphic designers out there, there are certain traits that make a successful designer. According to undergraduate- and graduate-run magazine, Creative Boom, the top qualities of a successful graphic designer are communication and curiosity. A designer should be open to new ideas and an understanding of the message a brand or company is trying to send through that design. On the other hand, Zewald says creativity and passion for research are the most important skills to have in this industry.

A poster designed by Zewald. Photo courtesy of Kendall Zewald

“Taking the time to research and find inspiration and see what’s been done before really helps to bring you ideas of what hasn’t been done before, and that’s your job as a designer,” Zewald said. “It’s a lot of time on the back side, but it will help produce a better, more purposeful design.”

Next time you pass by a billboard or a graphic T-shirt in a store window, think about the work and inspiration that went into creating that design.


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