In the marketing industry, the words “creative” and “graphic design” are occasionally used interchangeably. Unfortunately the ideas are also sometimes used interchangeably. Both often refer to the development of images. Both are concepts that one person can deliver. Both are admirable. But one is a skill and the other is a process. Distinguishing which is which can save you time, money, and great frustration.
Get the Creative Juices Flowing
In the industry, creative is the original, imaginative, inventive, inspired development of something with artistic elements. It’s part visionary, part problem solver.
The creative process is all about coming up with a result that is totally new, or taking something established and reinventing it in a new way. It involves taking an idea, a prompting, a need, a work order, or a creative brief and imagining a visual solution. This is beyond an expert knowledge of Photoshop or InDesign; it’s an internal ability to come up with new and inventive ways to fulfill a need. Creating the digital picture of the solution is a separate part of the process.
The Graphic Design Toolbox
Graphic design is the physical process of building or modifying something visual. It is something that requires great skill to do well and even greater skill to do quickly.
The graphic design process however is a functional one. It’s similar to manufacturing in some ways; it’s the producing of the image. This is where the software, keyboard, and mouse are used as construction tools. And though it may not sound glamorous, it takes a lot of time and dedication to become good at it.
Telling the Difference
Now for the real meat and potatoes, graphic designers are not always creatives. Likewise creatives are not always graphic designers. It’s easy to understand if you look at an artisan glass blower who is very creative but doesn’t draw anything. On the other side you have someone who has marketable skills designing images but they aren’t really creatives because they lack the imaginative and inventive traits.
I’ll use myself as an example. I have some well developed skills in graphic design and photography. I’ve taught university courses in these subject areas and once considered myself a graphic designer. But all the while, I’ve never been a creative. I’m more analytical than visually inventive. Not to say I have no creativity (I did create this blog post after all), but from an artistic perspective I have a lot of room to grow. So while I’d make a proficient designer, I lack the creative side necessary to really excel.
Making Informed Decisions
Be mindful though of what is needed to accomplish a project. Some projects only need graphic design work done, these can be a little less expensive because the work has more to do with modifying than inventing. But a project that requires creative work calls for something more substantial, and should yield more impressive results.
Creative and graphic design are complementary, but know what you need and what you’re getting.