What Is Visual Design?

On this page I will explain in a nutshell what Visual Design is, what purpose it serves, why in my eyes it is a somewhat elusive and actually too flexible term, and why I still use this term to describe a large part of my skills.

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What is Visual Design?
Many of the items under my ‘Skills’ and ‘Areas of Knowledge’ sections are relatively flexible concepts. They grow or shrink every year, they are quite ‘fluid’ when it comes to what is and is not covered, and many of these disciplines have only taken a bit of a serious foothold in the last 15 years (and sometimes much more recently) ground when it comes to general recognition. Visual Design is perhaps the most awkward term of all, and also the most elusive and even controversial. The main reason I use the term is that it focuses emphatically on digital design. Something that is in graphic design is by no means always self-evident. In this way, I have reserved Graphic Design for myself for all non-digital design work (for example printing, corporate clothing, and business gifts) and under Visual Design I place all my digital design work ( Web design, App design, but also logos in their digital form, for example. ). I also really like that within visual design there is a great deal of overlap with Interaction Design on the one hand and user interface design on the other. This requires a visual designer to have knowledge of these areas and the psychology associated with them.

What does a visual designer do?
As said, visual design is an extremely flexible and multi-interpretable field. A quick Google search even leads to a Wikipedia page on Graphic Design when that is something completely different. And at Hanze UAS, for example, the field is officially recognized as a specialization for majors. From this description, it can already be concluded where I referred to earlier. Officially, visual design is very similar to graphic design, but a layer of depth has been added because digital products simply called for it. Where a printed matter is ‘fixed’ as soon as it is printed, digital products involve interactivity and certain technical matters that have a great influence on the design. So it was simply necessary to deepen or broaden this field with regard to user-friendliness, psychology, and interface design and that is why visual design is in fact ‘graphic design for digital products, including knowledge of (user) psychology’.

How do I see my role as a visual designer?
Because the official definition is so new and uncured, I give the term visual design a little bit of my own twist. I count all my digital design work under visual design and as soon as it is ‘physical’, I see it as graphic design. As mentioned, I also use the term to create clarity towards my clients and to indicate where I am switching from one designer role to another. And because of the breadth of this definition, a huge part of my work officially falls under visual design. The physical design makes up maybe between 10 and 20 percent of what I do right now, and everything else is digital. In addition, my knowledge of visual design is valuable in printing anyway. My knowledge may not apply user-friendliness explicitly in the design of a business card, but it is not superfluous knowledge either. And so I could even completely omit the field of graphic design from this website now that the relatively new field of visual design is becoming more and more established. However, because graphic design is so well known as a term and currently rings a bell much more often than visual design, I still use the term and reserve it within my own workflow purely for the design of physical things.