Skip to main content

Introduction to Graphic Design

Lesson 1 from: Graphic Design Fundamentals

Timothy Samara

Introduction to Graphic Design

Lesson 1 from: Graphic Design Fundamentals

Timothy Samara

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

1. Introduction to Graphic Design

Find out how the profession of graphic design evolved and what that means for people working in field today.

Lesson Info

Introduction to Graphic Design

Hi everybody I'm Tim, and today we're gonna be looking at the fundamentals of graphic design. So our first task today is to really dig in and try to understand what design is really about. What does it mean to communicate visually? Why do designers do what they do? And where exactly do they do it? There're a lot of different areas of practice that we'll be looking at, from advertising to packaging to branding and book design. So you can get kind of a sense of how wide and varied the field is. We're gonna take a little trip down memory lane to see how the profession evolved over time. Trying to cover about 3,000 years of history in 10 to 15 minutes or so. We might skip over a couple of things along the way. And then after that we'll be able to see really what the tools are that designers use when they're trying to communicate. Those tools are form and image, color, typography and layout, bringing all of the visual elements together into a format or a space. Right after that I'm gonna wa...

lk you through the typical stages that designers in studios usually go through, from ideation, or concept development, through execution. The kind of phase structure that most designers employ when they're attacking a project from beginning to end. And last, you'll have a chance to see that process in action as I take you through a number of projects that I've done and you'll be able to see all the steps along the way, from rough sketches all the way through the finished item. So I've been working as a graphic designer professionally for about 25 years. I've worked independently as a freelance consultant working with my own clients, and I've also been a member of a large team, directing junior and senior designers in a salaried, or corporate, situation. About 15 years ago I began teaching more or less full-time and I've been teaching since then at a number of institutions, among them Purchase College in upstate New York, the Parson's School of Design in Manhattan, the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and also, until recently, the School of Visual Arts which is also in New York. So when it comes to fundamentals I'm kinda your guy. In addition to that teaching experience I've also written, as Vanessa mentioned, eight books all on design topics to date. And they span a range of subject areas from the very basics, the kind of fundamental information that we're gonna be talking about today all the way through much more in-depth and comprehensive studies, so typography of drawing, of symbol development, layout and publication design. So with that, I hope you feel you're in good hands and we'll kick off. The question that we first have to ask is, what is it that graphic designers do? Cause some people have a kind of an idea, they see things around, they see logos, they see websites, they see magazines or they get a card in the mail for something and it looks nice. And somebody has to put that together. And they may have a sense of making some things for a place where they work, like a newsletter or sometimes an invitation that they're doing for a family member. And so a lot of people kind of have a basic idea possibly, but what really is it to communicate visually? And so the first thing we're gonna talk about is really what it is that graphic designers do. And in a nutshell, they visualize. Graphic designers take abstract, written concepts, things that are verbal, things that are intangible, messages, and they transfer them into a visual form by using symbols, pictures, colors, shapes, textures, typography, which can also be a kind of an image, and they arrange that material within a space, the format, which changes depending on the kind of project it is. A print format like a magazine layout or a poster or an on-screen format like a browser window or a smartphone app. And they organize that material in a way that is understandable and that communicates not only literal information that users need to know, but also more high-level, conceptual ideas: moods, feelings, context and relationships to the world at large that we live in, kind of the culture in general. The second thing that designers do which is sort of a natural part of the process of visualizing something is to clarify information. What does that mean, to clarify? Well very often, when a project begins, a designer gets a whole bunch of information. Some text, some images, with some idea about how those things should be ordered, what they're really talking about, but generally that information at that stage is something that's very loose and not particularly pinned down. And one of the designer's jobs is to take that information and by ordering it, by selecting and editing elements, by giving focus to some and downplaying others is to make that information as understandable and as easy to use for the audience to meet their needs based on their expectations. What are they trying to get out of this information? What do they really need to know? And so on. Part of that clarification process involves organizing. And that organizing happens on a conceptual level in terms of how a designer chooses to sequence material from beginning to end, in what order he or she feels it's best to present that information, what kinds of information are juxtaposed, or show up next to each other in a particular place and what's the value of that, as opposed to a juxtaposition of two other kinds of information. And then there's also organization on a visual level. That is, creating a structure for the information. A compositional idea or a layout that allows a reader to focus on the entry point to enter into the designed object or into that experience, to know how to start, where to start, and then to be able to navigate easily from beginning and most important element to secondary supporting element to third more in-depth elements, and to be able to also make intellectual or understandable connections between the different levels of that hierarchy or that informational order. Designers play a critical role in the economy and also among communities by connecting people who have information, or who are offering services, or who are working on a certain cause or advocating on behalf of a certain group of people, with those audiences. Graphic design facilitates this kind of transmission of information, and by giving it a form that is bold and compelling and engaging for the audience attempts to sort of connect the audience with the service provider or the business or organization in a way that draws their attention and makes them feel as though they're important. It allows businesses to conduct business or commerce by providing tools and media, whether it's print or online application media, that businesses can use to transfer information or do whatever it is that they do. And, last, designers connect communities. Disparate groups of people who are coming to that informational experience, or that visual experience, from the standpoint of being unified together, playing a public role in that forum. So design is very, it's very economically based and market-driven kind of an endeavor, but it is also essentially a cultural uniter. It ritualizes things, it draws communities together and creates a sense of communal meaning, communal understanding. Design is often used in service of documenting cultural events, historical events, events that are of importance to particular sub-groups or sub-cultures within a larger society. Basically to give evidence to those things, to commemorate those events for posterity. And last, design on a very, very high-brow and philosophical level, it elevates. The goal of design, as you're going to see, is essentially to make the world a better place. The visual environment has a profound impact on how people feel about the world that they live in. As that visual world that we encounter everyday becomes increasingly refined, becomes dynamic, elegant and engaging, it lifts us morally and spiritually, psychologically, emotionally. And it gives a boost to our sense of how good life is, how well it is to be living as a human being under these conditions. So where does all this visualizing and elevating and documenting and connecting happen? Well it happens in communications, and what are those? Well, you encounter design communications everyday. Several hundred or several thousand times a day. There are some statistic that I can only offer anecdotally because I have no hard evidence, I don't really know the source, that we're confronted with something like 10,000 messages, individual messages, every single day. And through our day-to-day comings and goings for the most part we're turning off that bombardment because it's a little too much. But we run into design at every step of the way from the instant we wake up in the morning till the moment that we lay our heads down on the pillow to go to sleep, design is in our face, it's in our minds even if we're not really conscious of it.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with RSVP

Syllabus - Graphic Design Fundamentals.pdf

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Ad+Poster-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Book+Web--Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Color-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Form+Image-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Identity-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Intro-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Layout-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Typography-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf

Ratings and Reviews


This is more about all of your courses - It would be really nice for instructors to answer questions during break times or even after the class. There a lot a fabulous questions that I see that never get answered. I would like to go back even the next day and see a short note for at least some of those questions. Just an idea to help out this wonderful format that you have going. I am sure to make use of the promote question when I see an interesting one.


I LOVED this class! I learned so much and since I had the foresight to purchase it, I can go back for a refresher anytime I want. Plus, the downloads are spectacular! Almost a book's worth and so helpful! Thank you Timothy, you are great teacher!

a Creativelive Student

This was an outstanding course, would love to see a more in depth typography course from this guy. I'm a proffesional photographer with a formal education in design, I hardly ever use it, so I forget things, this was great both as a review, and to pinpoint things I didn't know or thought I knew. thanks once again! well done!!

Student Work