What is a Graphic Artist:
Graphic artists create visual presentations for written communications turning ordinary words and ideas into visually pleasing and effective communications in print and on the web. It is not the actual writing but the transformation of the words that is in our field with creative typography and pleasing layouts and designs. We also work with graphics and photographic images in artistic and creative ways to make our works more interesting and inspiring to the readers or viewers.
What graphic artists are, are actually masters of media and an understanding of media is very useful. But in doing so, you must understand the function of the media and the purpose of the works being designed and produced. It is your responsibility to enhance the message of the authors, be it a simple letter that you should make sure people will read or a catalog that readers will not be annoyed spending time trying to find what they want to buy. The media is the message is a very accurate description of the communications process for we need graphic artists to manipulate the media through the effective use of typography, graphics, layout and design.
Graphic arts work requires creativity and your work must be visually pleasing. You must have imagination and a sense of good quality design to produce interesting work. Can you think of different looks for the very same type copy you start with? Can you use pictures and words together to produce work that people will want to pick up, look at, read and respond favorably to? What we call Graphic Design is actually the most creative and artistic extreme of the graphic arts field. There really isn't that much difference except in the opportunity or requirement to express one's self more artistically. Be careful that some jobs labeled graphic design may offer less creative opportunity that others that may be called something like Mac Operator or Quark Operator. Each opportunity must be evaluated so look beyond these often times vague keywords.
But you do not need to be a fine artist skilled in all traditional art media such as drawing and painting. True, these disciplines help you expand your creative and artistic sense and your skills will be improved with training in the fine arts. But this is not always necessary. What is actually required is an artistic sense of knowing that your work is artistically pleasing and visually effective. This can be developed with a great deal of study of your work and the works of others. What makes a work appealing and how can you use those techniques in your own work? Can you discover new ways of expressing your customer's words and pictures that are fresh and creative? Beginners make mistakes and, through lack of experience, produce work that is uninspiring. But time will correct this so long as you work at it and strive to improve your sense of creativity.
But graphic arts is also a service; production work. Although our work must be artistically pleasing we are not actually in the business of producing works of art. It is more that we must express our art through the demands of everyday production work. There is a balance between art and production and more often than not, unfortunately, production wins. There is just so much art we can put into our work so we must learn to think artistically and produce artistic work in a reasonable amount of production work. Many beginners fail to recognize this point because real art cannot be forced into a production time frame. All graphic arts work is scheduled and must be completed on the basis of production terms and this reduce things like typographic art to, "How fast can you type?" Or how quickly can you create an illustration of a teacup that everyone will recognize as a teacup? Beginners who wish to express art and disregard production time will not survive for long. After all, who is paying for the service? We cannot write a blank check to cover our artistic idealism, we can only charge for reasonable production time.
There is a technical side to this field that many people at first don't realize. It is the responsibility of the graphic artist to insure that the project can be printed successfully on a printing press. A lot of knowledge and skill is required to make sure the projects not only look nice but can be produced as well. Web designers will have to work with computer programming and make sure web surfers will see exactly what they want them to see and not some disorganized mess caused by poor programming. The entire field of Pre-Press is actually a branch of graphic arts where you check and fix files before they are printed making them work with the printing equipment. Although there is little art at this end of the field, pre-press technicians must be prepared to fix any problems and do so with an artistic sensitivity toward the intentions of the designers.
Today's graphic artists work on computers with various programs and equipment to transform raw words and pictures into finished printed (or web) projects. We must be skilled computer operators with a full working knowledge of the setup, maintenance and troubleshooting of that computer and the programs on it we must use in our work. We must continue to learn about the computer technology that applies to our work constantly keeping pace with new developments and emerging technologies. Further, our programs are always changing with new versions giving us more flexibility for creative expression and increased productivity. We cannot afford to fall behind in the area of computer technology.
Another concept of the graphic arts field is that it is extremely wide with many different applications of what could be called graphic arts. There is newspaper work, magazines and even web sites that all need to be produced and produced artistically pleasing. Some graphic artists are actually working in manufacturing producing graphic works for products such as packaging and all that printed stuff found in boxes of new products. Oh yes, instruction books, too. Graphic designers produce printed works for any company that has a need to communicate with their customers. And there is the freelance graphic artist prepared to help customers with their visual communications needs with brochures, catalogs, letters, sell sheets and even web pages up to and including the design of online virtual stores and much, much more. Many companies hire graphic artists to work in their offices producing their own communications. These graphic artists will have to coordinate their efforts with the printers and web masters to insure success of each and every project.
The world of communications would be very plain and boring were it not for the many graphic artists striving to make their customer's works the most noticeable. It is a question of art, taste, quality and pleasing the viewer so that they will respond favorably. This service is necessary or the sales go to some other company with the better graphics (considering equality in product or service).