The difference between graphic design
and art direction
Art direction isn’t complete without graphic design and graphic design makes no sense without art direction.
I like to think of art direction as the “why” and graphic design as the “how.” What is your message? What does your brand represent? Do I feel that your brand is youthful and approachable or is it serious and to the point? Is it one way but you would like to take it into a new direction to stay relevant or increase market share? Art direction helps to provide a strategy as to how brands can engage the consumer on a level that he or she can relate to. Everything down to the choice of the model talent, ethnicity, location, clothing, and lighting is used to support the brand’s marketing initiatives. Simply put, there is a well-thought-out and highly conceived reason as to why the tone of an ad or commercial connects with you.
Now here is the fun part, in my opinion. A graphic designer’s job is to know that approved concept direction and turn it into a compelling visual piece. I enjoy this process the most because as a graphic designer, we can pull out as many obscure or current references that make a layout look fresh. I can take inspiration from an old family Polaroid album or an episode of Voltron, or Thundercats and pull typography treatments or color combinations that scream school, cool and funky.
Does the photography need to be centered? Can it be a bit off, to the side, to allow room for typography? Maybe I can throw in an abstract texture to overlay the headline. Will that typography be impactful, stoic, tiny, oversized? Well, it can depend on who you are talking to, i.e, the target audience.
I have designed full-page spread ads for an airline, a diabetic device, a haircare company, technology services, and others. My job, and our job as designers, is to take the client’s marketing initiatives and produce a compelling visual aid in order to sell their products or services. But it always starts with a vision and then a direction from which to follow. That sense of direction, coupled with great design, will lead to better solutions for the company and further growth opportunities.