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Just like English, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Arabic or Sanskrit, graphic design is a language. It’s a way to organize forms in order to communicate a message. And, as such, graphic design is (or should be)—more often than not—the medium or vehicle, and not the end in itself.

Recently a friend confessed to me that he was kinda tired of graphic design. It had gotten old for him. I get what he means. He was tired of graphic design about graphic design. It seems to me that graphic design as an industry has a tendency to be self-referencing more than most industries. If we think of design as a language and compare it to the English language, it would be like only using English to talk about the English language (or to put it another way, perpetual grammar class). While grammar class is necessary to learn a language, too much of it can get boring—fast.

This may seem obvious, but think of all the other things we can use English to communicate about. We can use it to communicate about… That’s right, anything. So it is with design. You can use it as a language to communicate whatever you want. Yes, the better you know the language, the more skilled you will be at using it to communicate. You have to think about it directly before you can let it be a passive vehicle for another message. Read the rest of this entry


The Difference Between Visual Art and Graphic Design

The fine line that separates art and design is something that’s been debated for a very long time. While both artists and designers compose visuals and have a shared toolkit and knowledge base, there’s a distinct difference between the two. Pinpointing exactly what the difference is, that’s where things gets tricky.

Many designers would consider themselves to be artists, yet few artists would class themselves as designers. So how can the distinction be made? In this article we’ll take a quick look at the defining characteristics of the two crafts and consider the motivation and intention of art and design as a starting point.

In the Beginning…

I believe that one of the clearest differences between art and design is to be found in the first sparks of creativity. Broadly speaking, art and design come from very different starting points. Design work usually stems from the need or desire to communicate a pre-existing message. A strapline, a logo or a call to action. A work of art, on the other hand, is the expression of a completely new idea. It’s the process of breathing life into something private and personal to create an emotional bond between the artist and their audience.

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The Importance of Graphic Design as Contemplative Art

We called it a “contemplative design adventure.” In summer 2012, I traveled through Mexico for three weeks with six of my top graphic design students. We meditated regularly and sought out experiences of landscape and culture that could galvanize their practice as designers. Our ultimate goal was to create a book together: a full-length visual album of images inspired by the trip. The university where I teach and serve as Graphic Design Department chair, Santa Fe University of Art and Design (SFUAD), supported this concept and fully funded it.

The idea for the trip sprung from my philosophy that graphic designers must develop a heightened sense of perception—a way of seeing, appreciating, and being that helps us authentically reflect the external world through design. I wanted to help the students cultivate this expanded awareness through meditation and travel, and I wanted to see how these practices would inform their art.

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Graphic design majors present art exhibit

art1-w800-h800Graphic design students at Drake are all over the place. Whether they are spending hours designing in their studios, preparing for a show, or working in the field, they are exposed to a multitude of opportunities to get their creativity flowing.

Senior Hannah Pink, alongside other graphic design majors, has been putting the finishing touches on her senior bachelor of fine arts capstone for Proximity, an art show that will be at Anderson Gallery from April 12-28.

“I have been putting just about every minute of free time I have towards completion of this art show,” Pink said. “This show is a culmination of all of my four years at Drake, so I need it to be as special and impressive as possible, which takes time and effort.”

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How Can I Become A Graphic Designer?

Hi Lifehacker, I am a hobbyist graphic designer and I have dreamed of doing it as a job for years. The problem is I don’t have a portfolio and I have the habit of leaving work unfinished or deleting it. How can I ever hope to be less critical of my work, finish my projects and have a portfolio to show potential employers? Thanks, Design For Life

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