June 16, 2018
Why most people will never see graphic design as an art form, and why they shouldn't
Graphic design is my art form. I've done a lot of it, and have gotten well-paid to do it. I have the ability to combine various elements, such as type, photos, drawings, whatever, into combinations that are visually pleasing. It's a type of abstract art that deals with color, texture, rhythm, and harmony. Like I say, it's my art form. I was first introduced to it in college, and have been fascinated by it ever since. But most people will never see it as an art form, and they really shouldn't.
I've met artists, and designers, in my life, and I gotta tell ya, they're weird. They see the world so very differently from most people. They will often speak of structure, not content. A painting is most often described by its media, not what the picture shows. For example, an artist may say that a painting is oil, or gauche, not that it's a picture of a duck, or a horse. The media is the structure, and the duck or horse is the content. But that's not how it works for most people. Most people see the content, as they should. Ask just about anyone and they'll describe the content - a picture of a duck or a horse.
When I first studying graphic design I learned to see past the content. Whether it was an ad for Volkswagens or a promotion for the Moulin Rouge, I saw the composition, the use of color, the use of type. As I saw it more and more I got better at it, and studied the great masters, from Henri Latrec to David Carson.
I probably would have never realized how much my view of the world had changed if I hadn't started teaching graphic design. I did so after many years of doing design professionally, and I was very comfortable at it. I remember showing my portfolio at the interview and learning later that my tie had been just as important as my work. I was hired on the spot, and since I really knew very little else but graphic design, it was fairly easy work.
And then one day there was a "teacher's art show" and I was encouraged to show my art. With encouragement I found the very best pieces that I had designed and they were displayed along with the other artwork. And then I started hearing that it was so very strange that the school was promoting certain products (my graphic design). And that's when I learned that graphic design is absolutely invisible to most people, and all that they see is the content, which as I recall was work that I had done for Bank One Arizona, and other companies that I'd worked for.
Luckily, my design abilities have not been invisible to the people who have hired me over the years. Like I say, I consider myself a pretty good designer, and people have paid me, which tells me that they thought so, too. But I stay away from talking about my art with people who don't understand design, and that's most people.
I continue to do my art, using the media that I love the most, which is digital. I'm especially fond of Adobe Illustrator, and Photoshop. The content itself can really be anything, I just enjoy working with form, and color, and texture. And that's what design is, and that's what my art form is.
Posted by Brad Hall