Sunday, October 9, 2011

Graphic Design 101: Let's Start From The Beginning

There seems to be a lot of misconception of graphic design these days. Perhaps being unable to attend courses for basic education behind this field makes people naturally defensive and aggressive to those who try and help their self-taught "skill". I love interjections I get that I'm self righteous for stepping on people's toes and breaking their little hearts for their creations. Well, as I have been taught from every art community/college course, art is not meant for the faint of heart if you want to make something on a respectable level. But this marks the path to a new series of tutorials! I been itching to write something vaguely useful these days since my HTML5 starter tutorials.

If you feel that you want to criticize what I'm about to say, first stop to think and blame where I learned it from. College (Digital Foundations 101), the world, other graphic designers (career and certified, not hobby and self taught).

Let's begin with some background information about what a graphic designer is and what not is. While you would think this is common sense, it generally isn't to amateurs.

A graphic designer by definition is not a graphics editor. I cannot stress enough how much people take a picture (mostly stolen from a website) and apply a series of filters and special designs to it destructively and call themselves a graphic designer. I think I seen this mostly in "banners" for signatures (forums, game sites, etc.). PLEASE just stop it. You are to create what you want, but you are NOT by any means given the title of "graphic designer".

If you modify only photos that you take (via your own camera and not someone else's), you're not a graphic designer, you're a photographer. If you do this but don't take your own pictures but someone else's, your a photo editor with the crutch of not having any full potential in talent and vandalizing other's work. It's fine to do this for practice at home, alone, in a dark basement, but to publicly announce this (and claiming it) is blatantly plagiarizing.

A graphic designer DESIGNS their OWN graphic, hence "designer" and applies a series of non-destructive editing to it for modularity, simplicity, and speedy modifications for future derivatives (whether for yourself or your "team").

Now some of those raster/pixel artists (I, myself am one) use to be considered part of graphic designers in the older age of digital art, but this no longer holds true as vector art and layering came to our existence with improved non-destructive image manipulation.

But what is a graphic; what dictates its definition; what is it meant for? A graphic is an image of representation (like any form of art) created for the purpose of being flexible enough for varying canvas such as pictures in a magazine, a book, a poster, a billboard (try scaling to that resolution with pixel art!), websites (banners, logos, etc), the Internet, general computer images (IE: icons on your desktop), etc. The beauty of a vector graphic is that it can scale to any size without ever losing its quality. Scaling (small to large and vice-versa) a raster/pixel graphic will create interpolation, causing blurry pixelated blocked artifacts everywhere. Frankly, it's a dying art type (thus the small communities and scarce job opportunities). Pixel art that is mostly used in only games is even disappearing (3D is a good description of a more complicated vector graphic).

It can even be plausible (though border-lined today honestly) to create high resolution digital painting and airbrushing to be considered a graphic. But unless you're not designing it to be somewhat modifiable through something like layers, it's not a graphic. But even today this is border-lined a graphic due to its limitations opposed to vector art and 3D rendered images.

You make vector art through applications (primarily) Adobe Illustrator and Inkscape, but not excluding some tools in Photoshop and GIMP. They are typically called anchors and points, or sometimes Bezier curves (GIMP's vector calculation). All a vector is a point and a calculation of a line/curve to the next point, forming a "graphic" or image of representation.

You can even be a graphic artist using traditional methods, such as scanning your RAW pencil/pen drawings and tracing (my preferred way) over them with vectors in Illustrator or Inkscape. But all in all, it all comes down to conversion to vector, or a type of flexible art form (3D modeling/vectoring is another example).

While I will agree it's sad to regurgitate a lot of information that should be common sense to amateur graphic designers, but it had to be done. Next tutorial will introduce you to image file formats, how they're used, what they're meant for, and some myths. We'll get to the good stuff (graphics) after we buckle down on some of this background information.