Why are We Cheapening Graphic Design?

Graphic Design=aesthetics, software and technical knowledgeThese days more than ever, there’s an inclination to cheapen the job of the graphic designer. Sites offering very low-cost design (there’s more than one) may seem like a good alternative, but there are inherent problems in using them — especially if you don’t know what to look for.

Then there are online platforms that practically instantaneously allow you to put materials together. These make the design process easy and accessible — and they can be a lot of fun and work for certain uses (more on that later).

Before explaining the issues with the above, let’s first look at what a graphic designer is — that will actually explain a lot to those not in the know.

A Graphic Designer’s Education

First, there are entire degree programs for graphic designers. These actually range from certificates all the way up to a Master’s in Fine Arts. Any of these levels obviously will work for some sort of job with the “graphic designer” title — the point is, however, that graphic designers study their craft.

Let’s look at a few examples of courses a graphic design student must take.

Example of a design piece done in Photoshop by graphic designer
The Photoshop portion of a student project from some time ago includes mannequins, ghost and a hand in the ground from different (royalty-free) sources. The tunnel of light was created in Photoshop. This was placed into InDesign for bringing in the text; but because it was a student project that included real logos, the logo copyrights are being respected and not published here.

Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design

One local university requires the following of its graphic design students getting a Bachelor’s degree: Two semesters of art history; two-dimensional art; three-dimensional art; drawing; life drawing; two semesters of typography; studio arts practices; classes studying art in Latin America, Asia, or a class in art of Africa, Oceania and Indigenous North America; color theory, photography, printmaking or painting; six semesters of graphic design-specific classes (from intro to more advanced topics); three semesters of advertising classes; three semesters of media design; global art; and an internship.

Certificate in Graphic Design

And a local two-year college offers a design certificate with these requirements:
Beginning graphic design, intermediate graphic design, package design, typography, graphic illustration, intro computer graphics, digital illustration, digital pre-press, Photoshop, internship.

On-the-Job Experience

Extensive on-the-job experience can also teach a person graphic design — but those who learned on-the-job will surely agree that it takes more than putting text on a photo to be a designer.

Tools of the Graphic Designer

Everybody knows that the most widely used tools of a graphic designer are Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. But let’s look at some of the specific tools within those pieces of software that allow designers to design.

For example, in the Photoshop toolbar alone, you can find the marquee tools, lasso tools (not what it sounds like), magic wand, quick selection tool, healing brushes, paintbrush and pencil tools, clone stamp tool, history brush, eraser, art history brushes, gradients, smudge tool, dodge and burn tools, pen tool (absolutely not what it sounds like), smudge tool, shape tool and quick mask (under the main tools). Most of these tools also have subcategories not even listed.

This scratches the surface, but at least the idea gets across.

Illustrator’s tools likewise include the pen tool, selection and direct selection tools, paintbrush, pencil, blob brush (yes, this is real), rotate, scale, free transform, width tool, shape-builder, perspective grid, free transform, mesh tool, gradient, blend tool…and more.

And again, this is scratching the surface.

Then there are other features you get to through the menus.

It takes specific training or experience to use a graphic designer’s tools — and know when to use them.”

The point is that it takes specific training or experience to use a graphic designer’s tools — and know when to use them.

Graphic Design=1/3 Aesthetics + 1/3 Software + 1/3 Background Knowledge

A graphic design professor once said the above: what we might call the “graphic design rule of thirds” (or maybe he called it that at the time…can’t remember).

Aesthetics. Obviously, this is important. A designer must be able to draw in the eye. At the same time, I have a decent sense of aesthetics when it comes to photography, but I would never claim to be a professional photographer. I don’t have the technical (or background) knowledge to do so.

Software. Yes, graphic designers use Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, as noted by the partial lists of tools mentioned earlier. However, it’s not just navigating software that’s important. Which software produces vector versus raster? What is the proper way to resize images in Photoshop without losing resolution — and what will you lose in turn?

Background Info (aka Technical Stuff). This involves knowing the why behind the how. Let’s take resizing images in Photoshop. If your image is 300 dpi at 8×10 inches, and you just choose “edit” then “transform” (or cmd/cntl-t), then pull the image out to be larger, you are not even considering what’s going on with resolution.

There are many, many examples of these types of things in the design world.

Back to the Cheapening….

By now, it should be obvious that it might be dangerous to rely on cheaper design sources. However, let’s look at some possible scenarios.

Places that offer design for cheap ($5-$10 per piece or similar). The problem here is that anyone — including someone who has no design experience — can usually place ads. There are no doubt design students advertising here who want to increase their portfolio work, and that’s fine. But it’s doubtful that customers always look into this before proceeding.

Jpgs are not vectors, and the logo-creator may not have created the logo in a vector program.”

For example, if you’re starting a business and need a logo, you have may have received a jpg of the logo. If you want to make a large poster, or if your business grows and you need more materials, you will be asked eventually for a vector logo (e.g., places that produce promo items often need vectors). Did the logo-creator know what a vector is? If all you have is a jpg, you have no idea. Jpgs are not vectors, and the designer may not have created the logo in a vector program.

The lesson: If you don’t know which questions to ask, you could be in for trouble down the road. A professional designer can offer a degree of trust.

“Quick Design” Platforms. There are also the online platforms that allow you to put together some beautiful images. These can be really helpful for social media, for your blog posts or just for fun.

The biggest lesson here should be obvious, though. Once, someone stated, “I’m a graphic designer, and I only use C*nva.”

Please see the “education” and “tools” sections above. 😦 Plus, someone may put together a great interior room design using a template, but I personally would never call myself an interior designer based on using templates.

It’s not that these online platforms don’t have anything to offer — there has always been software that inspires creativity, and many spawn future designers and artists. So have fun with these and use them appropriately.

Just keep in mind that  most of us don’t use step-by-step financial planning software and call ourselves CPAs, either.

P.S. For anyone who just thinks this is a post by a paranoid, resentful graphic designer, again, see the “tools” and “education” sections. The facts speak for themselves.

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The Perfect Time for Creativity!

"The Perfect Time to be Creative" (blog post) | ArtisticallyWriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com

It’s always time to be creative! Or at the very least, we can always get inspired for some crafting, and no matter if you’re an experienced creator or just starting, we all need a little inspiration.

Let’s look at little tidbits that might inspire us…even if it’s just something fun or beautiful. Your tastes might not be the same, so think about what inspires you to be creative!

An Artistic Handpainted Mini Parasol

Disneyland Handpainted Carousel Horse Parasol from "Using Iridescent Oil Pastels & Iridescent Acrylic Medium on Deep Sea Creatures" (blog post) | ArtisticallyWriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com

This little parasol came from Disneyland years ago (though they may still have an artist doing these parasols). In New Orleans Square, you could find the outdoor artist who would paint a design you select and personalize the parasol with your name.

 

Retro Snoopy Yarn Art

Snoopy Yarn Art from "The Perfect Time to be Creative" (blog post) | ArtisticallyWriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com

This wallhanging is made entirely from long stretches of yarn. Yarn and other similar artwork were a little more prevalent in the 1970’s.

 

Carousel Horse Oil Pastel

"The Benefits of Oil Pastels: A 'Happy Medium'" (blog post) | ArtisticallyWriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com

This carousel horse oil pastel was a lot of fun to make. Find out more about it here, including the materials used.

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Using Iridescent Oil Pastels & Iridescent Acrylic Medium on Deep Sea Art

"Using Iridescent Oil Pastels & Iridescent Acrylic Medium on Deep Sea Creatures" (blog post) | ArtisticallyWriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com

Deep sea creatures are really fascinating — they range from the frightening to (in a couple cases) the really cute. There are not a lot of art pieces out there depicting them, so it seemed a fun and different project to tackle making a couple of deep sea pieces.

One was a frilled shark, one of the scarier-looking, more stereotypical and weird deep sea species. The other was just the opposite: a cute and comical flapjack octopus.

Oil Pastel? Acrylic Paint? How About Both!

It seemed a bit bland to depict deep sea creatures with regular oil pastel. Though it’s a great art medium, it just didn’t seem right for bioluminescent animals. At the same time, acrylic paint didn’t seem quite right, either. For these pieces, it seemed like it would be fun to somehow show the phosphorescence of the deep sea environment — though that’s impossible for these two species, since they don’t have any bioluminescence of their own. The solution? Using iridescent art materials with just a bit of reflective quality.

And it’s impossible to see in the photos, but the method really worked well.

"Using Iridescent Oil Pastels & Iridescent Acrylic Medium on Deep Sea Creatures" (blog post) | ArtisticallyWriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com
“Deep Sea Creature: Frilled Shark” (oil pastels and acrylic paint on mixed media paper)
Iridescent Acrylic Medium

If you’re unfamiliar with iridescent acrylic medium, it’s like any other acrylic medium that gets mixed into acrylic paint. Used at a 1:1 ratio (though you can use it however you like), it creates just a little bit of a reflective quality or sheen without actually being too sparkly. In fact, it almost makes acrylic paint look a tiny bit like oil paint.

In these pieces, black acrylic paint was mixed with iridescent medium for the deep sea background.

"Using Iridescent Oil Pastels & Iridescent Acrylic Medium on Deep Sea Creatures" (blog post) | ArtisticallyWriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com
“Deep Sea Creature: Flapjack Octopus” (oil pastels and acrylic paint on mixed media paper)
Iridescent Oil Pastels

Iridescent oil pastels (by Sennelier) can be a lot of fun to work with. You really can see the iridescent sheen, which turned out well with the half-iridescent acrylic background. They blend just like the other Sennelier oil pastels, being very “buttery” and soft. You can blend them with a blending stump or even paper towel.

The bodies of the animals were mainly done with the iridescent oil pastels (the eyes were regular oil pastels).

"Using Iridescent Oil Pastels & Iridescent Acrylic Medium on Deep Sea Creatures" (blog post) | ArtisticallyWriting.com | authorbrennapierson.wordpress.com
Close-up of “Deep Sea Creature: Frilled Shark” (oil pastels and acrylic paint on mixed media paper)
Success: Simple Deep Sea Art!

These are by no means complex pieces, like the oil pastel carousel horse, but they were fun to work on and depict animal subjects that need to be drawn and painted more…even just for fun.

 

Materials used:

Also used:
Iridescent Acrylic Medium
Black Acrylic Paint

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