Being a successful graphic designer requires training in fine art.
To some extent, being a graphic designer is like being a musician. If you have the skills and the talent, clients will hire you because they want your work. Most people acquire these talents by attending art school, but some graphic designers are self-taught. In the marketplace, it matters less how you acquired your skills than how good your skills are.
The fine arts are the basis for all forms of commercial art and design. A sound understanding of the principles of fine art helps a graphic designer or commercial artist to understand more deeply what he is doing. Fine arts classes include principles of painting, sculpture, aesthetics and other aspects of creative design. Graphic designers who graduate from a university are more likely to have experience with fine arts classes than are those who attend a trade school.
Commercial art is any visual work that is used in advertising. This includes magazine and newspaper ads, book and CD cover designs, television commercials, billboards and packaging design. Many graphic designers work in the field of commercial art, and thus this discipline is stressed in most graphic design programs. Unlike fine arts, which focus on self-expression, commercial art focuses on communication of a specific idea to another person, usually involving persuasion and ideally the purchase of a product
Most graphic design is done on computers. As a result, graduates of graphic design programs are trained in a number of visual arts software applications. These programs include Adobe Illustrator, various CAD (computer-aided design) programs, Corel Draw and photo editing systems. Computer software sometimes is used in the preliminary stages of designing a commercial or photo spread and sometimes to produce the final product, as in the case of website design and animated television commercials.
Principles of Design
Principles of Design is a common class in which students learn about the underlying principles that govern both fine art and commercial design. Principles of Design includes aesthetics, composition, color theory, perspective and similar theoretical elements of visual design. Internalizing these principles helps an artist develop her craft to a higher level by understanding the framework on which it is built.
Many students of graphic design are also trained in printing techniques. Understanding both design and the techniques of its physical manifestation helps artists and designers to be more versatile and thus more appealing to potential employers. Printing techniques include anything from lithography to silk screening to photography.
Just as the production of graphic design has been largely computerized in the 21st century, so have many of its finished products. Thousands of graphic designers work in website design and have been freed from the graphical limitations of physical manifestations such as paint, paper and packaging. Designing on a computer for imagery that will exist in its final form on a computer allows designers to explore new horizons of aesthetic expression.