Fundamentals Of Graphic Design And Elements Of Persuasion


Technological development has placed designers at the heart of the creative process. Often, a graphic designer manages the design process and coordinates the work undertaken by other creative disciplines as part of a job. As such, the scope of a designer’s responsibilities now includes print buying, website programming, photography, page layout, materials selection, art direction, freehand illustration, computer generated illustration (CGI), project management, client account management, story boarding, editing and pre-press production.

The evolution of graphic design developed from the printing and publishing industry, with the term itself first used in the 1950s. At that time there was a clear demarcation within the different stages of the print production process, with specialist professionals or trades performing each one. These stages involved printers, scanners, photographic reproduction, graphic design, typesetters, print buyers, film, proof readers and production managers. The consumer economy that emerged in the western world following the Second World War brought with it the emergence of bright and attractive packaging as competition between products intensified. The number of magazines also began to increase, resulting in greater demand for visually appealing designs. These coincided with developments in print technology and opened up new production possibilities that designers were well placed to take advantage of. The success of graphic design helped to make it even more indispensable.

As the power of colourful visual communication became widely appreciated, graphic design grew from the need to provide visual communication to the consumer world and spread throughout different sectors of the economy, while continuing to harness the technological developments that progress brought forth. Technological development, particularly in the digital age, has revolutionized and rationalized the processes of print production. Trades such as typesetting and artwork preparation have become obsolete, as they can now be performed by a designer. As a consequence, graphic design has developed into a multifunctional role that sees the designer playing a pivotal role in the production process. This demands great versatility and the need to communicate effectively with many different professionals. In the past, designers would have undertaken all aspects of a job from the generation of ideas to hand-drawing type for headings and layout.

Any project begins as a series of preliminary sketches, thoughts or ideas. A graphic designer brings a sense of order to these concepts and arranges them in a way that gives them pace and meaning. In essence, a designer creatively structures and edits the job, and makes decisions regarding what is vital to communicate and how best to convey the message. Executing the job the designer’s next task is to execute the job. Designers may work with, and choose from, a varied selection of sources to conceive the final design – whether employing a philosophical viewpoint, such as modernism, or relying on pure aesthetics, such as current trends in typeface design or fashion. A valuable part of the design process is the final resolve, look and feel (aesthetic qualities) of the project. Aesthetic control is more far-reaching than selecting sizes and colours as it brings order to a project, and aids communication and understanding. The implementation of a clear hierarchy can both enrich and simplify a project by making it easier for the user to locate and obtain information – whether the job is a complex signage system or a simple restaurant menu.

A designer can arrange text and images in an infinite number of ways, but the ultimate aim is to communicate effectively rather than produce avant-garde work for its own sake. Design actively develops, maintains and evolves conventions, axioms and clichés in order to convey important messages. For instance, why does the front page of a newspaper contain 500 words and one large picture, a masthead and a stand first? Because this format has become the convention accepted by readers and anything drastically different may prevent them from buying or reading a newspaper. Conventions save designers from having to start from scratch with every job. However, this is not to say that there is no room for innovation. On the contrary, innovation tends to occur within the bounds of established convention. Design conventions are a useful and necessary element of society. For example, motorway signs function according to conventions as they communicate messages that can be instantly processed by motorists. If signs did not communicate effectively, there would be more accidents.

Persuasion and Content

The persuasive effects of campaigns evoking fear and humour have been the subject of considerable empirical investigation. The history of commercial advertising shows little use of fear to persuade audiences, yet efforts to change health and safety-related behaviours frequently involve material of a threatening nature. There is a history of oscillation between support for and refutation of the persuasive power of fear in the research field. A major 1970s study of fear-evoking campaigns directed towards increasing the use of seatbelts showed no such effect on seatbelt usage. This precipitated a trend in favour of stressing the benefits of adopting health and safety behaviours instead. When fear evocation returned with a vengeance in the 1980s with Aids (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) campaigns the world over, interestingly again, in terms of effect, there was little evidence for its success. On the contrary, the Swiss Aids campaign, widely seen as the most effective, does not use fear and focuses instead on the benefits of condom use for quality of life.

Beyond the realm of emotional tone, much contemporary thinking on persuasion derives from studies exploring types of visuals that persuade viewers to give to the charities associated with those portrayed. The paper turns to exploration of the persuasive power of the differing types of visual material. People donate more than double when asked to give money for an individual about whom they have been given some personal information, compared to having been fed statistics. Interestingly, feeling and compassion diminish as soon as one starts to add more people, even just an extra one, to the ‘single identified victim’. Depiction of an identified individual victim appears to be highly emotionally evocative and this may motivate distress and, consequently, donations.

The power of the visual, in terms of national and international issues, needs to be set within a climate where people have been force-fed statistics and have statistics fatigue. The problem with a statistic is that it conveys so little about the people it represents – what they feel, how they sound and look. It is not surprising, then, that visuals often strike us more emotively than numbers. In some sense the visual provides a counterpoint to the statistic – particularly in terms of being distinctively emotive – where text and figures speak to more rational pathways of thought. Without affect, information lacks meaning and will not be used for judgment and decision-making; thus affect is a key ingredient in decision-making, such as deciding whether to give to a particular disaster fund. Beyond the role played by pictures of the ‘individual identified victim’ in persuading people to donate to charities, the type of ‘victim’ also plays a part. Examining the interaction between charity poster campaigns related to disability and the people viewing them Eayrs and Ellis (1990) show that people intend to give more money when presented with posters depicting children rather than adults. Images of disabled children may evoke particular emotions, such as the distress which may play a role in intentions to donate.

Classified Graphic Designs

The role of graphic designs in visual communication finds expression in people’s propensity to meet their needs in the context of their communities and in accordance with their lifestyles and cultural background. The roles of graphic visuals in communication are predominant despite the moderating effect of economic climate and technology now. Graphic visual communication as the name suggests, is communication through visual aid. It is the conveyance of ideas and information that can be read or looked upon. Primarily associated with two dimensional images, it includes signs, typography, drawing, graphic design, illustration, colour and electronic resources. It relies solely on vision. It is a form of communication with visual effect and it explores the idea that a visual message with text has a greater power to inform, educate or persuade a person.

Some of the roles of graphic designs in visual communication are the evaluation of a good visual design which is based on measuring comprehension by the audience, not on aesthetic or artistic preference because there are no universally agreed principles of beauty and ugliness in design. In the role of graphic designs in visual communication, there exists a variety of ways to present information usually in form of gestures, body languages, video and television. Here, focus is on the presentation of text, pictures, diagrams, photos, and et-cetera. Recent research in this field has focused on web designing and graphically oriented usability.

Graphic Design Influences on the Element of Communication

Designers use images to communicate. When images are developed through the application of semiotic principles, a graphic device can be made to mean more than it would appear to be at first glance. The type of image, its style and presentation, its quality and how it has been reproduced can all add layers of meaning to the overall design, drawing different meanings from the context in which it is placed. The bee design (opposite) for Waitrose honey is a good example of this as three parallel lines on the bee’s body become an ‘E’ within the context of the row of letters they are placed in.

Symbols, icons and indexes Symbols are physically recognisable representations of items, while icons rely on a shared understanding. For example, ‘dog’ could also be a symbol – a pictorial element that communicates a concept, idea or object, such as a sign, pictogram or a graphic element, which describes an action, or series of actions, through visual references or clues. A red cross is a universally understood icon, which means help or medical treatment. Indexes are signs that link to an object – for example, a horseshoe or an anvil could be an index for a horse.

Sign are often graphic elements that are used to visually represent an object, person or idea by reducing it to simple and instantly recognisable characteristics. For example, through the sign or signifier ‘dog’, an image of a dog is conveyed; the letters ‘d’, ‘o’ and ‘g’; or a recording of a bark, give the same message. A dog can also be represented by a graphic sign, sketch or icon. An example is the Red Cross – a widely recognised sign indicating that people can obtain medical treatment.

Cognitive is the way in which an image is presented dramatically affects how information is interpreted. Images are powerful communication devices because people can extract many different values from them as they often have cognitive meanings far beyond their denotative elements. Cognition refers to things that we have perceived, learned or reasoned. A picture of a woman denotes a female, but woman may have other connotations such as family, beauty and love. In the example above, the visual presentation provides cognitive hooks that colour how we interpret the information presented, both in terms of the vivid red colour and the font selection.

Denotative is the explicit literal meaning that we take from an image, essentially, taking what we see at its face value. For example, ‘woman’ could mean or indicate someone of the female gender, or be a mother or sister. Graphic designers need to consider both the cognitive and denotative values that may be instilled into a piece of work due to the way that information is presented. Different and possible interpretations can lead to confusion and contradiction where there is conflict between what we see (denotative) and what we perceive (cognition).


The use of a colourful, dreamy image alludes to how production industries provide a wealth of possibilities, which interact to improve the appearance of the people using them. The fine detail and the importance of image quality to the business of the client meant that high-end filled paper stock with excellent printability and colour-reception characteristics had to be used to persuade the masses. In this example, minimal dot gain is vital to avoid registration problems. High opacity and whiteness are necessary to provide a crisp, clean background that allows the colours to reproduce as intended. The translation of ideas using visual structure such as pattern and colour can be represented in two or three dimensional forms. Finally, graphic communication represented design printed on surfaces while graphic design has expanded to represent visual layout using typography, photography and illustration that is applied to a variety of media in economic development.


Most graphic design works require the process of research and planning. As design objectives need to be formulated to determine the needs of communication, it must contain visual structure that will enhance the persuasive development of the people. Since graphic design visual is the development of human mind and its creative ability is the fine mechanism which tilts the static balance between societies and human acceptance and starts a process of dynamic balance between them and the image. In other to tilt that balance in persuasive development, it is necessary to explore and exploit all design resources and potentials at our disposal.

09 March 2021
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