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Graphic Design Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide

By August 16, 2017February 4th, 2022Graphic Design

The question every graphic designer has most certainly encountered is: ‘what exactly do you do’?

Graphic design is all around you. Looking around you can hardly miss an impression of graphic design.

From your morning packet of milk to ordering an Uber, the art of graphic design is inescapable. In most instances, graphic design involves merging creativity with strategy, communication with brand identity savvy and aesthetic with function.

It would therefore be an understatement to say graphic design matters a lot.

Graphic / Communication design is integral to our lifestyle.

Graphic design is about communication. You are able to achieve communication goals through graphic design.

The basics of Graphic Design: Elements and Principles are quite an essential compartment in a designer’s toolkit.

Graphic design or communication design involves effective communication through visual concepts with the primary intent to publish print or digital media (including interface design).

But like any other form of communication, visual communication involves design thinking.

Many times graphic design often considers the aesthetic, functional, economic, sociopolitical dimensions of both the design product and the design process.

All design work is guided by a design process; that includes design brief, research, ideation, presentation, revise and deliver. Clients usually have the role of determining design project aims.

The graphic designer comes in to help ensure the primary objective(s) or aim of a design project are met.

Here is a cheat sheet featuring 10 steps on How to write a detailed and efficient design brief.

Graphic Designers, therefore, help in achieving communication goals by analyzing, interpreting, structuring, planning and creating images, text, and illustration to enhance visual communication for a specific purpose.

What is Graphic Design / Communication Design?

Graphic design is communication expressed visually through a problem-solving process with the use of type and image.

In Graphic Design you will majorly be involved in creating and systematic planning to solve a problem or achieve certain objectives, with the use of images, symbols or even words.

In most instances, the graphic design field has often been referred to as Visual Communication or Communication Design due to the skill set involved.

A basic and most adopted understanding of graphic design or visual communication is the aesthetic expression of concepts and ideas using various graphic elements and tools.

Graphic designers use various methods and tools to create and combine words, symbols, and images to create a visual representation of ideas and messages.

A graphic designer may use a combination of typography, images and page layout techniques to produce a refined final product.

In brand development, graphic design may communicate your brand message visually with the use of colour, typography, and layout on digital and print media.

Graphic design may also be referred to as both the process (designing) by which the visual communication is made and the end products (design) which are developed.

You may also need to read on the Ultimate Graphic Design Process with Case Study

Useful Resource on Graphic Design

Here are some of the useful resources that would help you understand and find the basis of graphic design.

American Institute of Graphic Design AIGA has given quite a clear meaning on the meaning of Graphic Design. This is the quick summary, graphic design is a disciplinary practice of providing solutions to a design problem expressed with visuals and text.

This form of visual communication may include images, typography or graphic elements.

The work involves arranging type, form, and images to convey the intended relevant message. The visual communication work can be done at various scales for either commercial, educational, cultural, or political purposes.

Graphic design can also be defined on the basis of the process of visual communication that is involved in problem-solving. This is through the use of images, typography, and illustration.

This form of visual communication includes creating and combining images, text, and forms, to give visual representations of ideas and messages according to Wikipedia.

Basically, it involves the use of typography, visual arts, and page layout techniques to create visual compositions.

Graphic design may also refer to the process of creating a visual composition to communicate (graphic design process) and display the visual composition forming the product (design).

Applications of Graphic Design

You probably know that graphic design has adversely been used in various media to communicate visually.

But just to point out on common areas that you will find graphic design being used, would include brand identity (logo and branding), publications (magazines, books, and newspapers), print advertisements, flyers, posters, billboards, website graphics and elements, signage and product packaging.

Illustrating this further, a product package might include a logo or other illustrations, organized text and pure design elements such as images, shapes, and color which unify the whole design work.

The composition is one of the most important features of graphic design, especially when using pre-existing materials or diverse elements.

By controlling colour, type, images, and ideas, graphics/communication designers produce materials that convey specific messages to the intended target group (audience).

Graphic Design Tools

So let’s talk about what enables the graphic designer in their process of developing spectacular work.

Basically, the mind is an important graphic design tool.”

In a nutshell, aside from technology, graphic design requires creativity and judgment. Critical thinking, observation skills, quantitative and analytic thinking are essential tools for graphic design before getting it down on paper or a computer.

Designers employ a variety of methods to transfer idea on the mind with both art and technology to communicate a particular message through a visual impression.

So let’s look into essential tools designers commonly use.


This is simply one of the essential traditional tools used to put the ideas down on paper; it is the quickest way to jot down the rough designs, which designers can develop further using other tools and technologies.

#2: Graphic Design Software

Design software has become an essential designer’s toolkit.
These platforms allow designers to explore their creative freedom and maintain the intended message being communicated.

One thing to note is that graphic design software is widely used to help in creating illustrations, enhance photographs, stylized text, and synergize all of the elements into an incredible layout.

This is to imply, the software focuses on the creative end of design not the concept.

Here are some of the best and commonly used graphic design software; Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Indesign.

The point is, a graphic designer requires to be skilled at using traditional art and technology to visually communicate ideas, otherwise, the intended message may be wrongly communicated.

Graphic Design as a Profession

Over the past 50+ years, graphics and communication design has emerged as a complex service-profession.

While pioneering designers majored their work on pen and paper, the 21st-century designers have shifted to incorporate technology, using complex design software and the latest printing techniques to communicate ideas.

Graphic design has been a popular profession, as new technology is being introduced, this line of design is becoming ever more fundamental.

A graphic designer works on a variety of products and activities, such as websites, books, magazines, posters, product packaging, advertising, exhibitions and displays, corporate communications and corporate identity, i.e. giving organizations a visual brand.

Therefore, as a graphic designer, one needs to listen to clients and understand their needs before making design decisions.

You’ll work towards a brief agreed with the client, creative director or account manager and will develop creative ideas and concepts. The appropriate media and style have to be chosen to meet the client’s objectives.

Be a Design Entrepreneur.

The work demands creative flair, up-to-date knowledge of industry software and a professional approach to time, costs, and deadlines.

“Good Design is Good Business

Like many professions, graphic designers redefine their role, invent new terminology to explain what they do and evolve over time.

Today a graphic designer may be referred to a brand strategist, visual communicator, or creative director, but in simple terms, they refer to a graphic designer.

Some graphic designers define themselves by the media they use. There are web designers, book designers, logo designers, and environmental designers.

The best designers, however, are the professionals who use all forms of media to communicate an idea.

What a graphic designer does

A graphic/communication designer services are to see your project from the planning, concept development, and budgeting stages, through to production, quality control, and the finished product.

When you hire Simpauls for graphic design, you are tapping into expertise in communication strategies, effective problem-solving and highly specialized design know-how.

As a designer, my responsibility will be to help you articulate your business objectives and crystallize your ideas. You’ll be rewarded with thoughtful, visual communications that make your message clear.

When thinking about graphic/communication design, and it’s potential to your business, it is important to note that, quality design is an effective design.

Graphic design is a job that requires craft ability, passion, and being able to communicate with clients and the audience concurrently.

As a designer, it is more prominent to take advantage of all media available, the web, print, environment, social media, and objects to communicate a business vision clearly. This is done by collaborating with the client to create a value proposition.

Here are the various typical activities graphic designers do beyond managing a design brief:

  • Meeting with the client or account manager to discuss the business objectives and requirements of the project.
  • Estimating the time required to complete the project and providing a quote for the client.
  • Developing a design brief that suits the client’s purpose and offer a value proposition.
  • Demonstrating illustrative skills with rough sketches and working on layouts ready for print.
  • Thinking creatively to provide ideas and concepts and developing effectively.
  • Working with a range of media, including design software and keeping the ideas and concepts relevant and efficient.
  • Using the clearly defined concepts to redefine a design brief within the constraints of cost and time.
  • Presenting finalized ideas and concepts to clients or account managers.
  • Working as part of a team with printers, copywriters, photographers, illustrators, other designers, account executives, web developers and marketing specialists.

Graphic Designers skills set

All the modern data collected has proven that visuals increase engagement by at least 10%.

Having a graphic designer equipped with the necessary skill set to work on your project, this would ultimately imply more engagement and good reception of your brand target audience.

The demand for visual identity is increasing every day and this has made graphic design grow as a career with the skill involved.

Here are some of the essential skills every graphic designer needs to have.

#1: Creativity

Great graphic designers ensure they maintain their state of imagination with the development of the ideas, fresh in building upon a project.

As a designer, you may need to create sketches of ideas and concepts from the client’s brief and use it as the basis of a project for either digital or print media.

#2: Master The Design Software (Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign)

Among the many graphic design applications used are Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

As a graphic designer, you may need to be savvy in at least a few of these platforms and be aware of their setback too.

Just to clarify on this, – identifying with this new technology and the best tools that suit your need is to help you achieve your growing task fast in delivery and execution.

As a graphic designer in developing proficiency in this software, providing the right output be it for digital or print media is quite essential.

#3: Typography

This is quite necessary for a graphic design skills kit, both the combining and processing of type data for either digital and print media.

A graphic designer may require a sharp visual on the style and the appearance of type, as people have a different response to the fonts together with how they are integrated with the content and images on the various media.

In a nutshell, typography is the language of text for graphic design. To be a successful professional, one should be fluent in it.

Among the important key concepts graphic designers should have is clear understanding of the font families, cap height, x-height, leading, and more.

#4: Color Theory

For visual identity, color theory entailing contrast, color mixing and visual effects of a specific color on a given context is such a valuable skill.

Understand colour and the various reaction evoked by different people based on culture, gender, or even personal preference.

The colour theory also involves the colour wheel: primary colour, secondary colour, and tertiary colour. It has to do with shading, tone, saturation along with the effects they produce.

#5: Research Skills

From the initial start of a graphic design project, receiving the brief and proceeding with the research process is important. A designer needs to be good at conducting research, familiarizing with the resources to use in different stages and have the right information and material.

Research as a stage in the design process involving strategic planning is often bypassed by designers despite being important in influencing the reliability of the product developed.

This kind of workflow and strategic planning in approaching the project is to enable designers to work with more efficiency and meet the prescribed deadlines.

Quality work in design is equivalent to its context rather than just creativity and technical know-how. The designer needs to understand the proper context of the audience in delivering the subject matter.

Paul S

Founder and Team Lead of Simpaul Design, a brand strategy and design agency in Nairobi, Kenya. Here at Simpaul Design, we work with brands across various categories with a focus on connecting with consumers and building brands that people want to be a part of. We specialize in brand identity and strategy, UX/UI, and brand transformation.


  • Mamun says:

    I am newbies on this industry. I am interested to learn the unknown fact of graphics design.Could you please explain the color theory with a color example.

    • Hey Mamun,

      We all have a place to start in our ventures. In Graphic Design understanding Color Theory is just an essential. There is a multitude of definitions that try to expound on this. I would be updating my blog with a post on the color theory.
      On the meantime, the color theory I would elaborate as a practical guideline to the mixing and the visual effects from a set of color combination. The color theory is three categories into – The Color Wheel (An abstract illustrative arrangement of color hues around a circle, showing the relationships between primary colors, secondary colors and tertiary colors), Color Harmony (Combining colors that work well together), and the context of how a color is used.

      Read more on colors at Color Matters