Graphic design (or visual communications) is the way of communicating an idea or a message through simple text, colors, shapes, symbols and image to produce a clear idea to people. As writers produce text to communicate their ideas to the readers and photographers or artists use the medium of visuals, so the graphic designer uses a combination of the two to convey his ideas to the world.
Ideally, the message should be understood immediately or at least spark an interest whereby the observer may have to delve a little deeper to discern the message (which also could be the designer’s intention).
But is it a really new idea? Or is it one that is old as the passage of time itself? Can graphic design be compared to the writings of the ancients who used symbols and simple drawings to communicate their message?
Certainly throughout history various concepts and forms have existed which could be considered ‘graphic design’ such as Hieroglyphics, and even the before in ancient Mesopotamia. But graphic design as it is known today was introduced by the American book designer William Addison Dwiggins in 1922.
Various forms of graphic design exist in the world today, in posters, logos, brochures, pamphlets, signs, book covers, packaging, DVD & CD covers, magazines, graphics for web pages, trademarks, advertisements, pens, mugs, t-shirts, stickers and so on. The list is endless.
A good design will always capture the imagination, it will always strike the eye and make the observer sit up and take notice. It should be balanced between simple and complex and convey whatever message is required. A good design will stay long in the mind and whenever a person sees it again, they should instantly be able to identify with whatever the message is.
However, with good must always come the bad, and there is a lot of bad graphic design out there. I should know, I’ve produced a bit of it myself!
Examples of bad graphic design include the 2012 Olympic Games logo which looks like Lisa Simpson bending down and um… (I know this was in the article, but I instantly thought of it as a bad design before even reading the article, and it’s that bad that it has to be included even if it costs me points). That design apparently cost £14k! Easy money.
Another truly awful example of a logo is the BP shield that has been changed to a washy yellow and green flower thingy. I can’t describe it as anything else; it certainly doesn’t pertain to what its product is in any way, shape or form. The old green shield with yellow lettering was far better, and far more appropriate.
Having said that, perhaps by having such a poor logo, it has helped, in that when it first was introduced in the early millennium, it certainly got people talking, and as they say any form of advertising is good advertising. BP certainly needs that right now!
The first logo I have chosen as an example of good graphic design is the Hush Puppies logo. This logo is interesting for a start because it has not been designed using vectors. The vast majority of logos that are constructed have been done with sharp, precise and clear lines - vectors. In contrast, the Hush Puppies logo is an extracted photo of a good ol’ faithful, comfortable Bassett hound.
Why was this chosen? Well, I imagine because a Bassett hound portrays a sense of comfort (like the shoes), is dependable (like the shoes), is warm and welcoming (like the shoes), and his colors are largely neutral, browns, tans and whites. He provides a very homely image which has been attached to the product. Or perhaps Basset hound skins were used as material for the shoes when the company first started. Perhaps not.
Now that the product is extremely well established worldwide, whenever you see a Bassett hound, even not in relation to shoes, instantly thoughts are of Hush Puppies. The Bassett hound symbolizes Hush Puppy shoes in the same way the Statue of Liberty symbolizes freedom. Well maybe not to that extreme.
The typeface used for Hush Puppies is very classy, further enhancing the feeling of a luxury, quality product. From the attached image, we can see the colors utilized on various forms of packaging, the bag and the box. On the box, we can see a monochrome version of the Bassett and the Hush Puppies typeface blended in with the word ‘Outside’, making it a quite versatile logo. And a versatile logo is fun for both the end user and the designer alike.
The second logo selected is from Pentech Pencils, and is very different in design from the Hush Puppies. It is a more dramatic and ‘in your face’ type design with a fist clenched bursting through something holding tightly onto the pencil. This is a typical vector type image that is more usual in logo design.
And whoever knew that a pencil could be made to appear so exciting?
The logo itself is yellow and red, two of the three primary colors, and black. Well, McDonalds too have used red and yellow on their logo and it works for them, so why not? Ok, a Big Mac may taste nicer than a pencil (just), but even so, the real experts are at McDonalds, so why not follow their lead?
This logo also lends itself well with the packaging used, with its funky design, obviously aimed at the younger generation.
The logo incorporates the actual use of the pencil too, with the hand holding it, which tells the purchaser what the item is for very quickly.
However, since choosing this logo, I have discovered that Pentech have changed their design, so either it wasn’t doing a good enough job, or they just fancied a change. Who knows? But it is certainly nowhere near as exciting and funky as their old one; maybe their target audience has changed as their new one is quite mechanical and higher tech.
So, in conclusion, graphic design is a very complicated concept and industry whereby the simple seems to say a lot more than the complex at times and it is often very hard to say what will work and what won’t. Sometimes the designs which look like they will do well don’t and the one’s that look bad do good.