Graphic Designer or Decorator?

I have a friend who is an Interior Designer. She has mentioned her frustration with people who call her an Interior Decorator. Many people don’t know the difference. After all, don’t both labels have to do with such things as paint, lighting, furniture and the like?

Well, yes. But there IS a difference.

A decorator is someone who decorates. And the definition of decorate is to bedeck, trim, garnish, festoon, furnish, adorn or embellish with something ornamental or becoming.

A designer is someone who designs. The definition of design (as a verb) is to make plans, drawings, or preliminary sketches to fashion the form and structure of an object, artistically or skillfully. The execution of the design is part of the definition.

In my friend’s profession, her skills include moving walls, installing plumbing and electrical wiring, and understanding the underlying architectural structure. She may add decoration as the final step in her design, but if she were only a decorator, she’d only be adding those final bits of trim and adornment.

Other designers make a related distinction. Graphic designers are sometimes seen as people who add the color, photography, and fancy fonts to the layout of an advertisement. The usual intent of those is “brand identity” or “brand awareness”—to make the brand of the item being offered more identifiable and memorable to the consumer.

But graphic designers are so much more than just people who decorate or embellish a print piece. We deal knowledgably with images and layout, yes, but we also understand much more. We learn about our client’s business and their intent or underlying purpose with the piece. When we design, we use our understanding about how a reader’s eye must flow across pages, and ways to make text more readable, and how to project the overall psychological “tone” behind the piece.

This understanding is even more important in designing Direct Mail lead generations and product promotions, since the graphic designer works closely with the copywriter to make the piece as persuasive as possible, so that the “call to action” is not lost, and the client gets the highest possible response with the piece. I’ve said it in a previous blog post that the design in this case “supports the copy” and is not the main event. It should not call attention to itself—it is not design for design’s sake.

All this is done using complex software that gives us far greater control over every tiny variable in the “look” of the piece. That’s worlds apart from only knowing how to make a colored border or insert a photo in Word or Publisher. Good graphic designers use Quark XPress, Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator. And their output is not just for print anymore; these days, it is also for the web.

So think beyond pretty pictures to the “next level” of talent for completing a promotional piece. I’d be happy to discuss your next project with you, whether for print or for the web.

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