This section will attempt to explain what elements in the creative process of graphics design are the most challenging for students?
Instead of focusing primarily on students, this literature review will examine the arguments and opinions of various studies that have tackled a plethora of aspects related to graphics design and idea conceptualization.
It is expected that through an examination of various ideas of experts in the field a succinct framework can be developed which can help to shed light on the various challenging elements of the creative process of graphics design. The literature in this review is drawn from the following EBSCO databases:
Academic Search Premier, MasterFILE Premier, Global Events, ERIC, and Professional Development Collection. Other sources of information utilized in this section are also drawn from various online resources. Keywords used either individually or in conjunction include: audience, inspiration, conceptualization, graphics design, and demographic.
Understanding your Audience
Shlyk (2007) explains that one of the main elements in the creative process of graphics design is the conceptualization of a design scheme that appeals to an intended audience (Shlyk, 2007).
People do not seem to realize that the visuals inherent in banners, commercials, videos and a wide assortment of work that implements artistic layouts is not random nor is it merely an expression of the artistic talent of the graphics designer.
While it may be true that there is a certain degree of overlap between the concept of art and the practice of graphics design, what you have to understand is that artists create based on their intended subject matter while graphics designers have to create based on what the client wants.
What is produced is usually done so based on exacting specifications of visual appeal that is meant to generate a significant degree of interest for the subject matter being portrayed. The inherent problem with the concept of appeal is that what can be considered appealing for one group may not necessarily apply to another.
This can encompass a wide variety of possible design choices ranging from colors and shapes to themes and other methods of presentation that are influenced by the social and cultural nuances of the intended audience. For example, in the case of the Chinese culture the color red is normally associated with good luck while the color black is associated with death.
The Spanish on the other hand consider the color red to be an ill omen while black is considered to be a color associated with modernity and technological development.
It is this and other such aspects related to appealing to specific audiences that Moszkowicz (2011) states as being one of the most difficult aspects of the creative process since graphics designers usually base their work on already preconceived notions developed within their own society and at times neglect to take into consideration the possibility that what applies for their culture may not necessarily be taken within its appropriate context in another (Moszkowicz, 2011).
It must also be noted that appealing to a specific audience is not limited to culture but must also take into consideration demographic data related to age, gender, and their level of academic achievement.
Studies such as those in the article “Small space, big ideas (2006)” have actually shown that specific color combination schemes, shapes and methods of presentation actually appeal differently to varying demographic classes due to changes in taste brought about by age, social status and the way in which their thought processes have developed (Small space, big ideas, 2006).
Evidence of this can be seen in nearly every advertisement on T.V., newspapers, magazines and other methods of publication wherein clear delineations in style differences can be seen for graphical designs that are meant to appeal to specific audience demographics.
It is based on this that the researcher has developed the assumption that an understanding of the intended audience of a particular type of graphics design work is one of the elements in the creative process that graphics design students find the most challenging.
In his work examining the process of graphics design, Boutelle (2000) states that illustrating the work, namely creating the initial blueprints for the design, is actually the easiest part of the entire process, it is the step involving conceptualization that precedes the creation of an illustration that is often considered one of the hardest aspects of the design process (Boutelle, 2000).
The reason behind this is quite simple, when it comes to textual representations of advertising and promotion all that is needed is for the marketing officer to simply state what the product does and how would people benefit from purchasing it.
The same cannot be said for graphics design since not only must the designer catch the eye of the consumer through an impressive visual layout but they must also be able to express an intended message without necessarily saying a word.
Boutelle (2000) goes on to explain that in such instances what is needed is to expressly understand what the work is to convey and at the same time combine such an understanding with an inspired idea or concept in order to attract the attention of the intended target audience (Boutelle, 2000).
This is easier said than done since a graphics designer must determine what specific type of visuals would most likely appeal to an intended audience and how such an appeal can be utilized to deliver a message. In such a case, Poynor (2001) states that graphics designers often turn towards modern day popular culture as the basis behind the design inspiration due to the greater likelihood of appeal (Poynor, 2001).
The inherent problem with such a method is that graphic designers must produce something that is original and not merely a piece of work that has can be comparable to a vast majority of other designs already present within the market today.
Unfortunately, graphic designers often fall into this particular trap in conceptualization with numerous advertisements for cars, perfumes, and websites often having similar style and design elements that are based on the same sort of theme.
In trying to understand the origins of such an endemic problem Staresinic (2009) points out that it is often the case that it is the very academic institutions where graphic designers learned their craft that are responsible for the current problems in design schemes that are often far too similar and lack sufficient originality (Staresinic, 2009).
Clark (2008) explains that present day methods in teaching graphics design utilize universal processes in conceptualization that breed stagnation in idea formation since students are being forced to think in only a particular type of way when it comes to creating design elements (Clark, 2008).
As a result, students often struggle with the conceptualization of ideas for particular types of graphics design since they are expected to create something original yet stay true to the processes taught to them which would result in an output that is distinctly unoriginal.
It is based on this that Shapiro (2004) criticizes the current practices taught to graphics design student since it creates distinct problems in developing sufficiently creative conceptual designs.
Before proceeding to the next section, it must be noted that conceptualization is considered one of the most challenging aspects of the creative design process due to the concept of inspiration often playing a vital role in design creation (Shapiro, 2004).
What you have to understand is that despite a graphics designer being presented with the necessary idea or message that their intended work is suppose to convey, the fact remains that it is not that easy to immediately manifest such an idea into a working design.
As Behrens (1998) explains, it is often necessary that a graphics designer gain a considerable degree of experience both artistically and mentally in order to be able to develop design concepts for a vast majority of potential types of work they would encounter (Behrens, 1998).
Unfortunately, most students within a graphics design class lack this measure of necessary experience needed to develop sufficiently unique and creative ideas that can actually work for a particular type of design (Behrens, 1998).
As such, it can be recommended that the best solution to such a problem would be implement some method of gaining design experience in order to be able to develop the necessary amount of knowledge to create concepts for a wide array of potential graphical designs.
The use of research is a fundamental step in the creative process of graphics design since without it a graphics designer will be unable to effectively know how to properly formulate the ideas necessary for a design to appeal to its target audience.
It must be noted though that various researchers such as Steven (2007) explain that the process of target demographic research is often harder than it seems, especially for students, due to the necessity of having to determine what specific factors appeal for the audience of a particular type of design.
The concept of message delivery is based on the fact that the artistic output by a graphics designer is meant to impart a specific type of information to a target audience and to illicit a particular type of response whether in the form of outrage, joy, appreciation, anticipation and a whole gamut of possible emotional responses.
What you have to understand though is that message delivery in artwork is not as simple as it seems and it is often considered one of the most difficult aspects of the creative process since graphics designers must be able to create a particular design in such a way that is both visually appealing while at the same time is able to deliver the necessary information to consumers (Steven, 2007).
Based on this literature review it can be seen that the elements of message delivery, research, conceptualization and understanding the audience of a particular type of design are considered the most challenging aspects of graphics design to date.
Behrens, R. R. (1998). Improvise! Improvise!. Print, 52(1), 26.
Boutelle, M. (2000). Graphic design touches everything we do, everything we buy, and everything we see. Enterprise/Salt Lake City, 30(22), 4.
Clark, B. (2008). Inspired. Design Week, 23(31), 10.
Moszkowicz, J. (2011). Gestalt and Graphic Design: An Exploration of the Humanistic and Therapeutic Effects of Visual Organization. Design Issues, 27(4), 56-67.
Poynor, R. (2001). Nay Say. Print, 55(3), 40B.
Shapiro, E. (2004). Design Schools 101. Print, 58(2), 41.
Shlyk, V. A. (2007). Fractal Graphic Designer Anton Stankowski. Leonardo, 40(4), 382- 387.
Small space, big ideas. (2006). Australian House & Garden, (5), 78.
Staresinic, D. (2009). Collaboration modernized. Packaging Digest, 46(10), 51-53.
Steven, H. (2007). VISUALS; Words Into Type. New York Times Book Review, 18.