Graphic design uses visual compositions to solve problems and communicate ideas through typography, imagery, color and form. There’s no one way to do that, and that’s why there are several types of graphic design, each with their own area of specialization.
Though they often overlap, each type of graphic design requires specific set of skills and design techniques. Many designers specialize in a single type; others focus on a set of related, similar types. But because the industry is constantly changing, designers must be adaptable and lifelong learners so they can change or add specializations throughout their careers.
Whether you are an aspiring designer or seeking design services for your business, understanding the eight types of graphic design will help you find the right skills for the job.
1. Visual identity graphic design
A brand is a relationship between a business or organization and its audience. A brand identity is how the organization communicates its personality, tone and essence, as well as memories, emotions and experiences. Visual identity graphic design is exactly that: the visual elements of brand identity that act as the face of a brand to communicate those intangible qualities through images, shapes and color.
2. Marketing & advertising graphic design
When most people think of graphic design, they think of designs created for marketing and advertising.
Companies depend on successful marketing efforts to tap into their target audience’s decision-making process. Great marketing engages people based on the wants, needs, awareness and satisfaction they have about a product, service or brand. Since people will always find visual content more engaging, graphic design helps organizations promote and communicate more effectively.
3. User interface graphic design
A user interface (UI) is how a user interacts with a device or application. UI design is the process of designing interfaces to make them easy to use and provide a user-friendly experience.
A UI includes all of the things a user interacts with—the screen, keyboard and mouse—but in the context of graphic design, UI design focuses on the user’s visual experience and the design of on-screen graphic elements like buttons, menus, micro-interactions, and more. It’s a UI designer’s job to balance aesthetic appeal with technical functionality.
4. Publication graphic design
Publications are long-form pieces that communicate with an audience through public distribution. They have traditionally been a print medium. Think books, newspapers, magazines and catalogs. However, there’s recently been a significant rise in digital publishing.
5. Packaging graphic design
Most products require some form of packaging to protect and prepare them for storage, distribution, and sale. But packaging design can also communicate directly to consumers, which makes it an extremely valuable marketing tool. Every box, bottle and bag, every can, container, or canister is a chance tell the story of a brand.
Packaging designers create concepts, develop mockups and create the print-ready files for a product. This requires expert knowledge of print processes and a keen understanding of industrial design and manufacturing. Because packaging design touches so many disciplines, it’s not uncommon for designers to find themselves creating other assets for a product such as photography, illustrations and visual identity.