The 8 Types of Graphic Design
Design is a broad term. It encompasses everything from logos and branding, to animation and artwork. With this ever increasing spectrum of terms, disciplines and styles, it’s sometimes hard to understand what the different areas of design actually are.
In this post, I wanted to create a quick and simple list that breaks down various types of design, hopefully helping you in distinguishing them from each other. Perhaps you’re looking to hire a designer, but don’t quite know what you’re looking for, or maybe you’re looking to get into design and start your career, but don’t know what area you want to work in. This breakdown should help!
Let’s get started.
Branding & Identity Design
This is probably the most common thing people will think of when you tell them you’re a graphic designer. Branding & Identity design refers to the identity of a brand, person, product and more. Think of Apple. They have the iconic bitten Apple logo, the sleek whites and dark black colours, and the typically minimal design. That’s their identity.
Designers who specialize in Branding & Identity will work closely with brand stakeholders in creating an accurate identity for said brand, taking into consideration things like logos, colour schemes and imagery that represent the brand’s core values. Often creating various products and tools like style guides, stationary and business cards will be a common task for a Branding & Identity designer.
Environmental Design refers to the design that can be seen in and around public spaces. Think about when you’re in a coffee shop. Are the walls blank? No, of course not. All around, especially if you’re in a chain store, you’ll see the imagery associated with that particular brand. Things like logos, fonts, colour schemes should all be kept in mind when working with Environmental Design.
Things that can be found within this field can include:
Public Transport Navigational Imagery
Various types of Signage
Simply put, this is any form of design that is in motion. Often, this can include a number of mediums, including animation, typography, audio, and various other effects. As technology has grown more and more powerful over the years, this form of design has become much more commonplace, and is increasingly in demand. Before the widespread use of the Internet, Motion Design used to be strictly reserved for television and film, but now that creators have access to industry standard tools at home, this is becoming much more common.
Types of Motion Design can be:
Websites with Animated Elements
Apps with Animated Elements
Animated Digital Artwork
This section could be broken down further into Web Design and App Design, but I’ve kept it as simple Interface Design. This refers to the creation of any interface that a person is going to interact with. Working in this field, you’ll come across the terms UI & UX. These stand User Interface, and User Experience respectively. The former refers to the actual interface that gets used, and the latter refers to what emotions, enjoyment, and experience the user will get out of using the interface.
An Interface Designer may need to create the following:
Video Game Interfaces
Mock Websites seen in movies
Packaging Design is literally what the name suggests; the design, layout and colour schemes of product packaging. Sometimes a product may require packaging that is designed to protect it during its shipping, but a lot of the time the packaging will need to appeal directly to the consumer. A Packaging Designer will need to have great problem solving skills, be able to understand a brand/product’s message, and be up-to-date on the current trends.
Publication Design is also exactly what it sounds like. This form of design focuses primarily on printed publications, such as newspapers, magazines, etc. However, as we are continuously moving towards a more and more online world, the sphere of Publication Design is evolving. With digital publishing comes a more interactive reading experience. It’s now possible to embed animations, links, audio and more into various, downloadable publications.
A Publication Designer will need to work closely with editors, creating complimentary layouts for the content, taking into consideration fonts, typography, imagery and more.
Forms of Publication Design can be (both print and digital):
Marketing Design can encompass pretty much all of the other forms of design. You see animated adverts online and on your TV, you see static ads in newspapers and magazines, you see ads in video games. Adverts can also use various forms of bespoke artwork. The different here is that everything is created to sell something, be it a product, website signups, app downloads, video views and more.
A Marketing Designer will need to take into consideration the brand, company, or product’s message, meaning and feeling when creating the advert. This role now primarily focuses on digital design, but of course will still create designs for print and other physical mediums.
Forms of Marketing Design can include:
Posters and Flyers
Embedded Website Ads (Static, Animated & Dynamic)
And much more
Art & Illustration
Strictly speaking, this isn’t a form of graphic design, but it’s so commonly associated with it that I’ve included it in this list. Art & Illustration is the creation of unique, original content that, in the design world, is often used to advertise a product, game, movie, book and more.
Artwork and Illustrations can be created for:
Of course, these can be broken down even further. For example, a Branding & Identity Designer might solely focus on logo design, or an Interface Designer might exclusively work with app designer.
But hopefully this list has given you more insight into the world of graphic design, the various roles within, and what to keep in mind when looking to hire a designer or start your career!
As you probably know from being on this site, I’m a freelance graphic designer. I specialize in cover art, posters & flyers, web design and more. If you’re interested in working together, or just want to get in touch, please use the contact page here!