//  Okay, graphic designer vs Graphic Designer, is there a difference?

Updated January 2018 (first published April 2010)
By Nate Tanemori, Principal Designer + Art Director, RESONATE

The growing trend from many design schools is to center the curriculum on the computer and software, and how to use them. Basically, learn how to use a Mac and Adobe Creative Cloud — throw in some other apps to learn such as Sketch or Wix — and voilà, you’re now a “graphic designer!”

From what I see, many graduates from these schools, or those taking those for-profit-driven certificate classes, lack an understanding of even the most basic design principles. They’re too focused on the latest software and technology. I often ask, “Where's the hierarchy, the structure? What about movement, contrast, depth, form, texture? And so on. Concepts that collectively compose much of the basis of graphic design.”
Note that these same principles also apply to other fields of design, such as fashion, industrial, interior… and even wedding cakes! Just look around, and you’ll see the role that design plays in our world. Society today is on design-overload. We’ve never been more attuned to design in general and what good design does for business and consumerism. People are intrinsically drawn to good design. But they don’t fully understand why.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad design being touted as good. Given the ease of access to mobile computing, automation, and inexpensive (or even free) online/cloud software, apps, plug-ins and filters, it’s far too easy and convenient for people or companies to “DIY” their own creative projects. After all, in their eyes it’s all about the software anyway — and the money they’re saving by not hiring a professional.
Knowing how to use a computer and some graphics software installed on it doesnt make you a true Graphic Designer. Just like owning a hammer and a saw doesn’t make you a Carpenter. Or buying a KitchenAid stand mixer and an expensive chef’s knife doesn’t make you a Chef. Or having an iPhone with its impressive camera specs somehow makes you a professional Photographer.
Computers and software are just tools, albeit the primary tools in this day and age of a graphic designer. Don’t get me wrong; knowing how to use the tools is important. However, I believe a designer must also be knowledgeable of art + design history, design theory and visual literacy, color theory, typography, and a full list of basic principles — including those mentioned earlier — and the science behind all of it. These are all part of the DNA of a good designer.
And there are years of formal education and training required to become a good graphic designer. It also simply requires lots of hands-on experience in doing a wide range of design projects of all types and sizes to help make him or her well rounded. After all, having multi-dimensional experience is always better than being one-dimensional, right?
Good design visually communicates information effectively, solves problems, and drives good experiences to the viewer / user. Good design outlasts “flavor-of the-month” trends, such as the current “flat” design movement. And good design also supersedes what the latest features are in the newest version of software or hardware.
A talented and skilled Graphic Designer is agile to any project, medium or methodology. He or she is adaptable, whether it’s for advertising, brand, digital, environmental, information, interactive, mobile, motion, packaging, presentation, print, user interface / user experience (UI/UX), or web design.

So if or when you’re looking to hire and need it done well, don
t settle for just a graphic designer. I invite you to see what a real Graphic Designer can do for you. You’ll see that there’s a difference.
Remember, as Thomas J. Watson said, Good design is good business.
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