7 types of Graphic Design

what is graphic design

Graphic Design is a broad term. It is mostly any design that deals with information visually. There are many ways to do that, so no wonder it can be confusing to know who is best fitted for a project.

Before jumping in and list the 7 types of Graphic Design, it is important to distinguish the difference between a type of design and a particular skill. A skill can be shared across different types of design. But the opposite is not necessarily true, meaning designers in a specific field don’t always share the same skills. For example, an illustrator can be a corporate designer creating logos, but logo designers are not all illustrators, if that make sense.

So let’s list the different types of graphic design, and hopefully it will help you know better who to get to help you with your project.

7 types of Graphic Design

1. Corporate Design: visual identity, logo design, etc…
2. Editorial Design: magazines, brochures, reports, etc…
3. Advertising: poster adverts, billboards, etc…
4. Environmental Design: wayfinding, facade, etc…
5. Packaging Design: product packaging, etc…
6. Interface Design: web design, app design, etc…
7. Motion Design: animation, moving images, films, etc…

1. Corporate Design

This covers mostly Branding. It is best known for logo designs, brand colours, visuals systems that will be used across all communications. Also not to forget any print elements like Business cards, letterheads, signage, etc… which can be grouped as “Collaterals” and very commonly offered in a Branding project.

A corporate designer will be a graphic designer trained to research and identify the essence of a business, from the market to the audience and connotations to consider. This comes with the ability to understand a business in its totality and be able to use creativity to simplify and elevate a brand for the benefit of its customers.

The right mind

In general you want a creative person with a good sense of pragmatism. Someone capable to simplify complex concepts into efficient and self explanatory designs.

Baboon by &Walsh
Baboon branding done by &Walsh Studio in NYC

2. Editorial Design

This is pretty much anything related to publications. It is about laying out content so that it is legible, entertaining and appealing to the audience. It can be a brochure, a magazine, a pamphlet, a book, etc… Because the content is varied, editorial designers can have multiple skills (such as illustration or infographic), or they often work hand in hand with more specific talents able to provide the right content.

In most case, editorial graphic designers do not provide copywriting, therefore they either work with content provided by the client or use the help of copywriters to get professional and on-target text. Meaning that any editorial design project must integrate the need for developing content prior to the design phase.

I would say editorial designers are very content driven, and focus their creativity to be at the service of content. With that said, it is also about pushing creativity beyond traditional rules to make something a publication always feel fresh and unique.

The right mind

A good editorial designer knows a lot about printing, typography and colour, especially for print publishing. Additionally it can create great things in a structured way following rules of layouts for the pleasure of the reader.

novum magazine
Novum Magazine 07.19

3. Advertising

Advertising design is quite an easy one because we see it everyday, on billboards, magazines, posters, adverts, etc… It is the design done for a company as part of a campaign. It can present a product, a service, a place, a lifestyle, etc…

Designers in charge will use a wide selection of medium to convey the right message. Traditionally, it started as a print based design, but became increasingly digital with moving images, codes based design on the web and more.

The right mind

A good advertising designer will always start his work with an idea. It is the idea that makes a successful design. Of course  there is a list of skills to have, and softwares to know. There is no doubt that the right person must be a visual thinker and able to “think outside the box”.

Fila Advert by Alex Trochut
Fila Advert by Alex Trochut

4. Environmental Design

Environmental design is mostly about spatial design and touches architecture, or at least works alongside it. Those designers will use different techniques and support to “dress” a space and make the overall experience better. Wayfinding is one of the core element behind it, where additional information is designed and placed in a space to ease navigation. It is what guides us within a space, telling us visually where things are and where to go.

This type of design can also go beyond that and be a way for brands to tell a story or convey a message. That would include anything on walls, facades, or any surfaces of a space, permanent or part of a temporary campaign.

The right mind

To deal well with large scales, environmental designers must have a good combination of graphic design and architecture knowledge.

Facade of the Zurich meets Hong Kong pavilion by Stan Diers, Graphic Design and Branding in Hong Kong
Facade of the Zurich meets Hong Kong pavilion by Stan Diers

5. Packaging Design

In terms of graphic design this will cover mostly packaging around products. Packaging designers will specialise their graphic design skills onto the box and other elements that wraps products. Beyond protecting the product from being damaged, packaging designers will use their understanding of typography, colour, packing structure, to convey the right message. Companies face tough competition on the shelves, so it is crucial their product is differentiate from the competitor, and to seduce people with the right appeal and information that talks to them.

The right mind

Because companies have very tough competition on the shelves, packaging designers will not only be required to have the right graphic design skills, but also a good understanding of the marketing challenges.

Stella Artois Packaging
Stella Artois Cans by BBDO studio, Masha Teterin and Anze Jereb.

6. Interface Design

Interface design would primarily be known as User Interface (U/I) and User Experience (U/X). The U/I specialist will be focused on the design the interface of a website, an app, or anything that requires a user to interact with something via the use of an interface. The U/X on the other hand will focus on the experience of that user, aiming to make anything as intuitive as possible.

U/I and U/X are very much related and it is very common for interface designers to have both skills and interest. Designing an interface without consideration for the overall experience would be counter productive as there is no need for something to be beautifully set if it is not helpful to use nor easy to find!

The right mind

Good interface designers would see the beginning of their work not from their point of view, but from the user perspective. They must be able to constantly drive their design towards the end user preferences, habits, limitations, rather than forcing people to adapt to a specific design. For this reason, the right person would be very in touch with design standards, best practices, and have a very people-centric approach to design.

macOS Catalina interface
User interface on the new macOS Catalina, with Photos and Music softwares.

7. Motion Design

As the name says, it is all about animation and moving images. Motion designers are specialist in film techniques and animated story telling. Just like other graphic designer would, they start on ideas and traditional softwares to produce their visual content (illustration, photos, text and graphics). What sets them apart is how they transfer these elements into moving images.

Motion designers can apply their design to any kind of fields. From advertising to Hollywood movies. Their design can be short like animating a logo for example, or long and heavy projects like a full film opening credit scene. Either ways, motion designers use softwares to set effects and transitions to help their stories entertain captivated audiences.

The right mind

Motion designer will have very good traditional design understanding like typography, colour theory, layout, etc… as well as film technique theory, such as transitions, visual context, camera angles, depth of field, etc…

Bottom line is that Graphic Design is as general of a term as it can be. It covers a large variety of design and depending on your project you would need to find the appropriate designer as not all can do all.
However, more often than not, designers are multi-skilled these days, and as things are more and more shifting to digital, there is a good chance you can find a designer able to provide services both for print and web.

If you are interested, my services cover Corporate Design, Editorial Design, Packaging Design and Web Design, so there is a good chance I may be able to help you in your next project!

Feel free to contact me to discuss your project if you feel you need a freelance graphic designer to help you achieve your goal. I am a freelance graphic designer in Hong Kong, building quality branding across media, from print to digital.

Read more on this topic:

The 8 types of graphic design by 99designs.
What is Graphic Design by AIGA.
Graphic Design Wikipedia page.

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