The Job of a Graphic Designer (2021)

What does a graphic designer do in 2021? Simply put, the job of a graphic designer revolves around visual storytelling. Graphic designers combine aspects of art, marketing, and technology to create visuals that entice or inform consumers.

Read the article on the Dribble blog:


A graphic designer should never be anything to do with art. It’s nothing to do with self-expression.

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I think art plays a large part in graphic design, but perhaps it depends on how we define art.

Graphic design isn’t art for art’s sake, but it does require artistic skills. Most graphic design combines artistic abilities with the more practical aspects of the job to produce something in which the aesthetic and emotional appeal of the design contributes to its functionality.

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You are right, of course; it depends how we define art. For me, there is a vast chasm between artistic and art. Art is about expression of the human condition. Design is not about such expression. It is communication necessitating an understanding of the human psyche. Both require a level of artistic sensibility, but their relative motivations are diametrically opposed.

That is not to say a graphic designer cannot produce personally-motivated, expressive pieces of work, but, I’d always argue that this is fundamentally different to design as problem-solving, per se.

As you say, is this a hard difference or simply a matter of semantics?

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Art communicates a different message to everyone.
Design communicates the same message to everyone.

You might picture a person on a boat on a lake on a summers day. Some would see that as a nice day out fishing, relaxing - others would see it as being lonely, isolated, bored.

If you that picture on a Mental Health Magazine, the message communicates just fine. If you put that picture on a magazine for cars, it doesn’t make sense. If you put that picture on a fishing magazine, it makes sense. But it communicates a different message than the Mental Health.

I’ve always thought of Art as being a way to communicate to different people. It’s viewed in isolation, away from connection to a feeling. Art communicates as an isolated piece. It can convey emotion and feeling in different ways to different people.

Design combines this with and attaches emotion and feeling, and the same emotion and feeling to everyone.

Even when you consider something like Mondriaan, ‘composition of blue and yellow, ; ~1930’ - in isolation you can ask 10 different people and they will have 10 different opinions. Put that same painting in a design piece, with a message that makes sense and you have the same opinion from 10 different people.

Design is communicating the same message.

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I get the point of what you’re trying to say, but don’t totally agree.

In my mind the artistic field can be broken down into two major categories: fine art where the objective is to please oneself (with exceptions) and applied art where the objective is to please someone else (with exceptions). Graphic design would fall under applied arts.

That said, the lines can certainly be blurred between the two and, as I mentioned above, there are exceptions in both cases. Can graphic design be self expressive? Sure it can. David Carson and Art Chantry are two examples of designers that have a strong sense of self expression.

Since I’ve haunted these halls for so many moons …

I remember hot debates getting started over the whole Art vs GD trope. It got as bad at the PC vs Mac battles.


It’s all semantics, and as with all matters concerning language, ours is not universal. We all infer our own context in everything we say. What I mean when I say “art” is not the same as the intended meaning when, say, a pawn shop owner uses the word.

Furthermore, the term is more often used less conceptually. None of us would say tradespeople produce art, but we might agree to say that handcrafting fine woodwork is an art.

As others have said, graphic design definitely has an element of art and artistic expression to it. Good design is purposeful, and if fine art techniques further that purpose then it’s all good. For instance, one of my recent projects had a bit of hidden symbolism behind it. Yes, that symbolism was used to tell the story and communicate the message and purpose of the project, but it was partly subjective. It wasn’t my personal expression, but it was an artistic expression of the company’s values. The project sort of bridged the gap between art and design.

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The job of a designer is my eyes is constantly evolving and people are expecting designers to do more than just design (smaller businesses anyways). Some people dabble in web, print, digital, social media. The lines start to become blurry but that the end of the day a graphic designer is a communicator.

its like asking what is a Job of a Filmmaker!

  1. is he freelancer thus in same time director editor scenarist writer director of photography stylist etc.

  2. or he is part of a team where the job of storytelling fells in hands of concept designers and storyboard pitchers, where as CGI artist in the end he is just craftsman …

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