For as long as humans have been communicating with each other, they have relied on graphic design to convey thoughts, ideas, and messages through visual means. Where once upon a time the implements of graphic design were pen and paper, now they are cutting-edge computers and powerful software.
Graphic design and computer science are two distinct fields but the interrelationship between them has never been stronger, and many graphic designers are finding that being proficient with computer systems and coding provides a strong boost to their skill sets while enhancing their job performance.
While there is no substitute for creativity and artistic talent in graphic design, the field is quickly evolving, and computer technology is becoming instrumental to how projects are completed. Graphic design and computer science are not the same things but there are undeniable connections between these two disciplines and graphic designers would be wise to learn computer science skills. Here’s why.
Is Graphic Design Related to Computer Science?
If the topics of popular graphic design courses and curricula are any indication, the fields of graphic design and computer science are converging on multiple fronts. As businesses and organizations seek to increase their digital reach, graphic designers are being called upon to lend their artistic, creative, and storytelling talents to areas like UX, UI, video game programming, and software development.
Graphic designers have long utilized indispensable software programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop as tools of their trade and commonly spend long hours in front of their computers. But now, much of their work is crossing over into the realm of computer science and graphic designers are now performing important tasks in an industry that once ran parallel to theirs.
Graphic designers are not only finding themselves working in fields once reserved exclusively for computer programmers and software engineers, but they are now collaborating with them in the same professional cohorts. In fact, a growing trend among graphic designers is learning the fundamentals of coding in order to gain advantages like these:
- Mastering the basics of HTML and CSS, the building blocks of website development enables graphic designers to oversee an entire website project from preliminary storyboarding to design and layout to implementation
- By becoming proficient in coding, graphic designers can assume a managerial role for projects and ensure they are completed on time and within budget
- Having the capability to code the front-end and back-end of web-type projects consolidates the creative and developmental aspects of digital projects and all involved parties stand to benefit (e.g., the client, the employer, and the graphic designer)
- Proficiency in coding and other developmental aspects of digital projects will enable graphic designers to see things for how they really are and assess for themselves how the technical aspects (as they relate to the creative elements) are coming along
- From a creative perspective, knowledge of computer programming languages and developmental platforms puts powerful implements in the graphic design toolbox
At first glance, graphic design and computer science seem like completely different fields. One is associated with creativity and artistry while the other seemingly relies on cold, hard logic and syntax. But there is significant overlap between these two disciplines and the boundaries between the two are fading away.
Jobs that Combine Graphic Design and Computer Science
One needs to look no further than some of the more popular positions held by graphic designers today to see the close relationship between graphic design and computer science. All of the following graphic design jobs require extensive knowledge of computer systems and software on top of the kinds of skills that graphic designers are typically expected to have:
- User Experience (UX) Design – where the field of UX was once considered to be the exclusive domain of computer programmers and tech-savvy developer types, its doors have been flung wide open to graphic designers, particularly those who bring artistic sensibilities to the functional aspects of designing the digital journey of website visitors and the like
- User Interface (UI) Design – graphic designers are also a hot commodity in the field of UI, where graphic design skills are used to create engaging interfaces that allow users to interact with everyday technologies
- Software Design – graphic designers are increasingly being called upon to collaborate with software engineers and computer programmers to develop the interactive and communicative aspects of software design that represent its “look and feel”
- Video Game Design – within the video game space, graphic designers bring valuable storytelling skills to the table in addition to their ability to create captivating, eye-catching graphic designs, typography, interfaces, and digital wayfinding implements
- Web Design – the role of graphic designers in web design has steadily grown from holding primarily artistic responsibilities to those that encompass website architecture, navigational features, and working directly with programmers (and even doing some of the coding)
These are but a few examples of career paths where the fields of graphic design and computer science converge. As the boundaries of graphic design continue to broaden and evolve, it is all but a certainty that the interrelationship between these two disciplines will continue to deepen.
The Future of Graphic Design
As far as what the future holds for the interrelationship between graphic design and computer science, a glimpse of it may already have arrived in the form of a new discipline known as creative coding. Unlike graphic design software (like Adobe Illustrator, for example), creative coding enables graphic designers to create artistic pieces through code. In other words, it is computer programming with aesthetic intent.
Here’s how it works:
- Graphic designers can choose to download and install a coding tool that simplifies the programming process
- Browser-based platforms allow coding newbies to write a short piece of code, observe the correlation to pixels on the screen, code some more, see the results in digital form, and so on
- There are also open-source platforms that are text-based or drag-and-drop interfaces, or a combination of the two
According to industry insiders, coding is the new frontier in graphic design, providing a highly malleable and responsive medium through which to create visually communicative pieces.
For graphic designers looking to highlight their computer-related skills, creating eye-catching mockups promoting capabilities like coding, gaming interfaces, and website development is a sure-fire way to garner attention, earn new clients, and add valuable pieces to your portfolio.
New advancements in computer science are seemingly flowing without end, and as they continue to develop, their technological reach is branching out to every field imaginable. Graphic design is no different. As graphic designers are finding out, computer science is extending the boundaries of what graphic design entails, if not removing them altogether.
And this is an exciting development for graphic designers and the masses who interact with their work.