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Graphic design: the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content. The form of communication can be physical or virtual, and may include images, words, or graphic forms. The experience can take place in an instant or over a long period of time. The work can happen at any scale, from the design of a single icon to a national signage system, or from a company’s digital persona to the sprawling and interlinked digital and physical content of an international magazine.
Design that’s meant to be experienced in an instant is the easiest to recognize and has been around the longest. For over a hundred years, designers have arranged type, form, and image on posters, advertisements, packages, and other printed matter, as well as information visualizations and graphics for newspapers and magazines.
Many designers also produce systems that are meant to be experienced over time, but aren’t confined to the making of objects. Wayfinding, which is a form of environmental graphics, refers to the branding and signage applied throughout and on buildings. While each sign or symbol in a public or private building is a work of design, they’re all part of a larger system within the building. The design of the system—the relationships between all of those parts—is where the designer brings value. Similarly, while all of the artifacts of a commercial or institutional brand, such as a business card, sign, logo, or an advertisement are individual expressions of design, how those are experienced together and over time is the design work. No part of it has been created without considering the others, or without thinking through how a target customer will encounter and then develop a relationship with that brand.
Graphic Designers are also responsible for interactive designs where the content is fluid, sometimes changing minute to minute, as well as interfaces that help users navigate through complex digital experiences. This work differentiates itself by adding another element: responding to the actions of the viewer. Editorial design for web and mobile is the most tangible example of content-driven work in this area, including publication websites, mobile apps, and blogs. Some design involves the presentation of streaming information, also known as data visualization. Other designers work on digital products, which are digital services or platforms that can be brought to market. Product design for web and mobile is related to software design. Sometimes different designers work on the user interface design (UI), which mostly refers to the individual layouts of pages, and the user experience design (UX), or the total experience of the user as they move through a website or app.