What does a designer actually do?

What does a designer actually do?

What is it you do?

I am a graphic designer by education and trade. There are different types of graphic design and they are evident in every aspect of our lives, for better or worse. Whether through branding, advertising, marketing, packaging, for print or for web, the job of a graphic designer is to make you look good, in content and presentation. Whenever a company or individual needs to convey a message to the public a graphic designer will use design techniques to present that message.

Like a lot of people who think they have a good sense of humor or are a good driver, many people look at design and think “I can do that.” That was especially true in the mid-1980’s when “desktop publishing” became the title everyone used who had a personal computer and MS Word. That phase didn’t stand the test of time as it became obvious that just because you call yourself a monkey it doesn’t mean you ARE a monkey. While desktop publishing has gone the way of the slide rule, there are still a ton of examples out there of people putting words and pictures on a page, or screen, and calling it design.

The reality is that just putting words and pictures on a page won’t get your message out there ahead of your competition. Attracting attention and getting the audience to stop and look is half the battle. A well-defined goal, and addressing that goal in a clear and concise way, is the other half of the battle.

  • I want to read something that is cleverly written and in as few words as possible.
  • I want to use photography or illustrations that are pleasing (or graphic, depending on your goal) and relate to the text.
  • And then… I define the visual cue, this is where the design part comes in and ties it all together. The visual cue could be a graphic element, white space, or anything that helps to convey the message.


A future article will define the elements of successful design.