The whole "graphics" thing

mara06's picture
Member's Forum

I'm spinning off a micro-discussion on another thread about the value of using the term "graphics" in our company names or tag lines. Most of us do so much more: we are marketing consultants, copy writers, editors, media buyers, journalists, type designers (or deconstructors), photographers, videographers, Web gurus, print brokers, mail houses, and so on. What term could possible cover all that we really do?

The industry has changed to the point where someone who self-identifies as, say, an illustrator, and working in traditional media wouldn't feel that her creative niche is included in the generic term "graphics," because it seems to imply "new media" or at least that the tools of her trade are mice and Wacom tablets rather than brushes and paper.

Have you given any thought to this in your own business? Do you use the word "graphics" in your company name or tag line? Do you ever wonder if it has cost you business by narrowing the public's perception of what you have to offer?


thornysarus's picture


Such a overused and such a neglected term that it hardly means anything anymore.

Today "Graphics" can be anything from charts and actual graphs to pin stripes on a pick-up truck.

I try and avoid it whenever possible.

Terry Thornhill

e-zign Design Group

natobasso's picture

Graphics is like Kleenex: It

Graphics is like Kleenex: It used to be a brand but now it's a commodity. Trouble is the very technology we use to do our jobs is making us obsolete as individual artist since almost anyone can jump in and start using the software.

The good thing is those who can design really well still can get business but the job description has expanded way beyond simply graphics, as you said Mara, so we need a new term; if only our job description would stand still. When I tell people what I do I just say print and web design and don't even mention the word graphic.

I think about how printers felt threatened with the advent of the computer and even environmental conservation of paper cutting into their profits, but many have managed to survive quite well in this 'new economy' because there's still a demand for printed goods, but they also offer design services both print and web. Some have become full fledged creative agencies with printing: A one stop shop.

Powerpoint is not a design application

pub3abn's picture

You're sitting on it

I think a preferable term is right under your noses: "Creative." That is the uniting theme, along with "Media" and "Production" and "Content." I'm not sure there is a perfect, one-size-fits-all answer. It depends where a business has its key strength. I think even a big business is better off if it can focus. Your competitors are focusing -- and generally speaking, those who devote themselves to doing one thing really well will do better than those who try to do all things well. If your clients want a one-stop shop, provide it by outsourcing to competent partners.

burro's picture


creative is the term that has evolved in our field.

mara06's picture

pub3abn: "Your competitors

pub3abn: "Your competitors are focusing...If your clients want a one-stop shop, provide it by outsourcing to competent partners."

Our markets are different. I can provide a variety of creative services in print media because I have competence in all of them. Where I'm weak, I outsource. My competitors inadvertently drive business to me because they provide everything with true competence in none, and at higher rates because of their overhead. But then, I'm in a relatively small market. Every market is probably a little different. Where do you fit into yours?

And yes, "creative" (being used more in our industry as a noun rather than an adjective) does provide a more generic description of what many of us do. What's your experience with how this goes over with the average consumer? Do they know what it means, or does it invoke images of an isolated, insulated art colony, out of touch with business concerns? I don't ask this to be snarky. I really wonder. Since I moved from the "big city," my finger has slipped off the pulse of the mainstream, as it were.


natobasso's picture

Personally, no client has

Personally, no client has ever asked me if I am a 'Creative'. They ask if I 'do' websites or if I 'do' print work. Maybe we're 'do-ers'? :)

Powerpoint is not a design application

julianaduque's picture

jajajaja love that! do-ers!

jajajaja love that! do-ers! that's exactly what we do.

Creative_NRG's picture

Think You're Right

I think you're right about that. I once questioned something screwy with the specifications I received on a job and the boss told me, "I'm not paying you to think, I'm paying you to do."

So I did exactly as instructed on the next project and he questioned why I didn't catch the oversight that ended up costing us extra at the printer. I repeated what he told me a few weeks early and he stood there dumbfounded.

echelon3's picture

I prefer it over the term

I prefer it over the term "artist" and I currently use "designer".

onegirlcreative's picture

I agree with you on that, echelon3

I don't know why, but I have always despised the title "graphic artist." I think because as an artist, you more or less type-cast, if you will. We do much more than just providing art, we are creating layouts, etc. I have always preferred "graphic designer."

OH, another pet peeve? I loathe when people call me graphics designer or graphics artist (plural). It's just something that has always bugged me. I guess because the plural word, graphics, really conveys more of a thing, as opposed to a title. Stupid, I know...get a life, right??? LOL

suzanne maestri-walters :: graphic designer :: www.onegirlcreative.com

pokie's picture

We've made the switch from

We've made the switch from "Graphic Arts" to "Creative Services" last year.

julianaduque's picture

ugh I hate it when designers

ugh I hate it when designers speak of themselves as artists. I think that artist work to convey personal messages in their art. We designers work to convey the CLIENTS message in our work using visual language. Designers seem to forget that we work for the client and it's needs (as much as we wish we could just design without the hassle of the client!!)

julianaduque's picture

Pokie, sorry that reply

Pokie, sorry that reply wasn't for you it was for echelon3 , jeje.

Scabby's picture


It's a craft, not an art. It is only occasionally elevated to an art in your own projects.

mara06's picture

When I worked in television,

When I worked in television, "creative services" was a fluffy new term some management consultants came up with for the production department. We got new titles instead of raises. But yeah, that seems like a good generic term. I like it.


Kilik's picture

I don't use the term...

I don't use the term Graphics (well not that I can think of.) Even when it comes to job descriptions, I don't say "Graphic Designer," I say "Art Director" because people who aren't in the field don't really have a preconceived notion of what an Art Director does. I know that graphic designers and art directors don't necessarily do the same things but at my job there is definitely some overlapping so it's perfectly suitable.

Creative_NRG's picture

Power to Crush

It doesn't really matter what they call us... this old SNL fake commercial pretty much says it all about our industry. ;P


archmedia's picture

multimedia designer

great postings from everyone, alot of legitimate points and insights...

at the end of the day, i find myself using "multimedia designer"
yes, i freelance and i could easily say "art director", though i find people's reaction to the word "director" is that i have a slew of people under me that i control. I've shied away from this word for just that reason, i want to stand alone and not seem like i'm using a bunch of people to do my work for me.

Multimedia Designer often has people asking what that means, and it's so easy to say "i design on a multitude of media's; web, print, video. that covers anything online, anything printed, or anything on TV" Now I may say i do them all, but i know first hand i'm not a pro in all aspects, so i sometimes take a cut in my personal profits to hire someone to help me with certain aspects.

So, just like the first time this topic came up, i still stand with my posting..
oh, and yes, i'm also an architectural technician.. as my signature below states it :D haha
Architectural Technician - Multimedia Designer

Calm Storm's picture

I'm in the middle...

of starting a design business with two friends, and we're working on our name, so this topic is right on time, haha. Some good input here already.

One thing I've noticed is many sign shops are putting "graphics" in their names, because some of them are offering basic design services besides the signs they do. I don't want to be confused with a sign shop, most definitely not. So the term has and still is evolving. (One of my pet peeves is how many like to "creatively" misspell "graphics", like "grafix" or "graph-x". Bah!)

"Design" is a common name-ender. It would fit well for a good while possibly, until we grow and offer more services.

One that still gets used is "Studio", some times coupled with another of the aforementioned terms. By itself, it often brings photography to mind more than graphic design.

For scalability, "Media" or "Multimedia" works pretty well. It does cover many aspects.

But "Creative" can be a nice place to go. It can encompass everything we might do, but it gives the essence of what we are. I dig it.

One more wrench-in-the-works is, whatever you're name-ender preference, sometimes it clashes with the name-starter. You know how some words just don't sound right together. On top of that, so many names are already taken, it's hard to come up with something fresh and cool.:)
I saw this wino, he was eating grapes. I was like, "Dude, you have to wait."
–Mitch Hedberg