In this article, we’ll define what graphic design is, what it’s not, and how it can support your small business’ branding needs.

First, let’s talk about what graphic design is.

Graphic design is the visual content that conveys a message. This messaging could be tied to your brand, an artistic expression, or a promotional event. It’s the text and graphics that you apply to various touch points.

Think of brand collateral, such as business cards, letterhead, mailers, etc. These are all tangible, visual pieces that require professional styling and design to be consistent, legible, and eye-catching.

To show you what we mean, let’s focus on packaging for a second. Josh mentioned kerning (e.g. the space between letters). Though a small design detail, this graphic element makes a big impact on legibility. This is especially important if your packaging is situated next to similar products on a store shelf.

The rule of thumb is the bigger the letters, the tighter the spacing, and the smaller the letters, the wider the spacing. When this design rule gets overlooked, or done incorrectly, it creates friction in the overall design. The end result? A sloppy design that distracts the reader from interpreting the key message.

Is that really how you want to showcase your brand to the world?

“When I was in college, you couldn’t major in branding. That wasn’t a career path yet,” Josh continued. “Instead, you had to take graphic design and learn the basics of typography, symbolism, 2-D design, 3-D design, digital illustration, etc. Once you could master these essentials, you could excel at pretty much everything else.”

What Isn't Graphic Design

We mentioned this earlier, but graphic design is not website design. In fact, anything related to a brand’s website goes under the category of UI/UX design.

But here’s the catch. Though graphic design isn’t website design, if you don’t know the principles of graphic design, you can’t design a website … or maybe a better way to say this is you can’t design a website well.

Think about it this way: all graphic designers can be web designers, but not all web designers can be graphic designers. Remember, graphic design is the style guide—or to put more bluntly—the rule book of design. Yes, there are rules.

Think about a few basic design elements of a site:

There are important rules governing these design details. They are not there to confine you. They are there to create a foundation to which you can build upon.

Using Graphic Design for Your Small Business

Graphic design is essential to advertising your products or services—all while creating a consistent brand image.

If you already have a logo or style guide, you’ll need a professional to help you apply these brand essentials onto tangible items. If you’re a restaurant owner, for example, you’ll need menu designs, table-top displays, coaster designs, window signage, etc.

You might even decide to invest in some out of home (OOH) advertising with billboard displays, too.

“Having a professional who knows how to combine your messaging, images, and color palette into one cohesive, eye-catching advertisement is invaluable,” Josh continues. “Too often, you'll see billboards or signage that either displays too much info without any hierarchy, or not enough. This can leave potential customers at a loss for words. A graphic designer knows how to strike the right balance.”

What to Look for In a Graphic Designer?

We’d recommend a pixel pusher—someone who obsesses over the small details to make a big impact—but we’ll settle for someone with a graphic design background, too.

Again, you want to make sure this person has the foundational skill set before even coming into contact with your brand. You also want to ensure this person can explain his or her reasoning behind each design.

Of course, you may not always agree with a designer's first draft, but that’s okay! If designers can explain their work—all the way down to the kerning of letters, it shows their comprehension and mastery of graphic design.

People who can’t back up their design decisions may be demonstrating to you that they don’t know the rules, and therefore, don’t possess a basic understanding of graphic design.

It’s up to the business owner to ask why, and it’s up to the designer to explain why.

Need Professional Graphic Design?

At Clokendagger, every service we provide is based on the foundational principles of graphic design. We like to think of ourselves as pixel pushers because we only want the best results possible for the small businesses we have the pleasure of serving.