I think the most common misconception I get when I tell people I’m a graphic designer is that my role entails “making pretty pictures”. While my design work is “pretty” (thank you!), the beautiful art and branding you see in the end has gone through hours and hours of testing, trial and error, print checks, and surveying. I’m here to debunk and break it down!

Good graphic design solves needs and problems. As general rule, there is rationale for every detail, color choice, tweaked font, and small flair in a design piece. Rather than a subjective piece of art, good design is a bottom-up processing type of situation — not ambiguous or fluff.

graphic design branding - woman drawing on lightboard

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

A legend in the design world, Dieter Rams, German product designer for Brauns, wanted to design without arbitrary and unnecessary nonsense. He envisioned a world with functionality and our reality to have clarity!

He set up the ten commandments of good design:

Good design is innovative.
Good design makes a product useful.
Good design is aesthetic.
Good design makes a product understandable.
Good design is unobtrusive.
Good design is honest.
Good design is long lasting.
Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
Good design is environmentally friendly.
Good design is as little design as possible.

Brands and their visual identities become symbolic in our lives. Graphic designers contribute to how we view society and construct our world.

Check out these color palettes:

Palette 1.
graphic design branding - hipster color palette  

Palette 2. 
graphic design branding - olives and cheese color palette  

Palette 1 makes me feel like I’m in a chilled, hipster coffee shop. These colors contrast one another, and are crisp and sharp. Kind of makes me want to put a cozy jacket on to stay warm.

Palette 2 reminds me of a plate of olives and nice cheese and a warm day, and the palette is more mellow and the colors are more homogenous than the former palette.

Fun exercise: if you had to assign each palette a country or a culture, what would they be?

Graphic design is all around us, and extends to things like stop signs, billboards, traffic lights, and even the Golden Arches for those midnight hangry runs. A red octagon has become a sign (literally) to stop. If the word “STOP” was in a different language, we’d still assume and understand the meaning of a red octagon. Red suggests alertness, urgency, awareness, stop! At a diner, unlabeled squirt bottles of red and yellow signifies ketchup and mustard, respectively. We know this because there is meaning to these colors. These symbols have been engrained seamlessly into our lives, that we process meaning without even knowing!

Design is an all-cohesive, strategic approach. It’s art with pragmatic value. It’s thinking two steps ahead, foreshadowing a consumer’s heart and mind, orchestrating what they should think and feel when they come across your brand.

Let’s do a mini case study of the Starbucks logo:

graphic design branding - starbucks logo evolution

Image by Brandingbusiness.com

We can see how when Starbucks launched, it was a rustic siren and more of a cozy local coffee shop. Throughout the years, color has been added, the mysterious siren has gone through some upgrades going corporate, and the text “STARBUCKS COFFEE” got stripped when the company wanted to sell goods beyond coffee. These reflect market needs and changing times, and looking at the version we know now, the iconic circular green siren has become a symbol of efficiency in the fast-moving life we know. The simple motif is easy to brand on mugs, collaborations, gift cards, and can stand strong on its own. Without the “Starbucks” wording, we know that green emblem means PSLs and holiday cups.

(If you have a few minutes, Fast Company analyzes this evolution and shares a little secret to the logo)

The same case study can be seen with brands such as Google, Mastercard, GE, and ton of other corporations! To understand the mind of a designer, try applying the Ten Commandments from Rams above, and you can train your eye to good design!

When it comes to your brand, the visual identity goes through the same design principles, fused with crafted creativity. From typography, to color choice, to graphics, each element is selectively sought out to emanate the true core values of your company.

So there you have it: graphic design is uber important to branding. And your business is SO much more than a pretty picture, don’t you think?


Dee Liang

Design Warrior / Dance Break Coordinator

Our resident literal and figurative cheerleader, Dee infuses mad creativity and positivity into our team and her brilliant branding, graphic design, and illustration work.

work with dee