Friday, March 23, 2012

Graphic Design: The Commercial Artist

As someone once said, in a nutshell, Graphic Design is the artistic technique to make information fun to read. Graphic design combines typography and illustration to effectively communicate a message to a specific audience. This combination of text and imagery is utilized within a shared space to create an aesthetically pleasing manner of communication between audience and broadcaster. Graphic designers are often employed in the media and advertising industries.

Common forms of graphic design include logos and branding, publications such as magazines, newspapers, and books, print and video advertisements and product packaging. Composition is one of the most important features of graphic design, especially when creating a unified layout for the integration of text and imagery.

David Smith

David Smith is a graphic artist and art director. He works in advertising agencies as the head of the art department. His department handles the design and production of print advertisements which range from newspaper ads to magazine publications and even to outdoor billboards. His department also manages television commercial design.

David Smith was born to Neil and Vida Smith on 21st March, 1955. He grew up in a quaint house on 16 Dundonald Street, Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Always having a love and fascination for the visual arts, David Smith began pursuing his dream of a career in the arts soon after his graduation from Tranquillity Government Secondary School. There was an advertising agency just around the corner to his home where he began his career as a trainee. As he knew little about the graphic design industry, he pursued a three year full-time Communications Design course at the John Donaldson Technical Institute, Port of Spain, Trinidad.

David Smith has been a graphic designer for over 25 years. He considers himself to be a sort of perfectionist when it comes to his artwork. He pays a considerable amount of attention to detail and continuously makes the extra effort to refine his works into the overall most effective communication of the client's product or service. He remarked once that as a graphic designer is more limited in expression than most fine artists because the final products MUST be pleasing to the client's tastes and specifications.

Mr. Smith's favourite medium is definitely the pixel. His entire creative process occurs behind his computer monitor, from conception and manipulation of the idea to the eventual refinement into the finished works. According to the artist, the convenience, versatility and efficiency of computer graphics is the major reason for his preference. He reminded me that research is a critical part of the design process. It is used as a tool for reference in terms of other existing designs and as a medium to gain inspiration and produce new innovative ideas.

Apart from graphic design, the last piece of fine art commissioned by David Smith was created around 1997. This is due to a lack of free time due to his career. He remarked that after a long, stressful day of design, the only thing he likes to do is to simply unwind and relax in the comfort of his own home. 

At his current advertising agency, one of the primary projects they work on is packaging design. One of their most prominent clients is the ABIL group. ABIL is one of the largest manufacturing companies in Trinidad. As such, his organization is responsible for designing the packaging of various products of Charles chocolates, Sunshine Snacks and Devon biscuits. When new products are released, new packaging must be designed, hence his plate is always full.

He considers one of the greatest achievements of his career to be his promotion to assistant art director in his early twenties. He was quite possibly the youngest designer to be granted that promotion in the country. Inevitably, his next great achievement was his promotion to art director, thus becoming the head of the art department.

David Smith, graphic designer and art director, loves his line of work. "There are times, because of the stresses that I don't love it as much." he joked. When asked if the design career is indeed a lucrative one, he responded that the fruits of a graphic designer's labour is very much dependent on his knowledge, skill and experience. According to him, the monetary returns of this line of work is worth all of the stresses and hassles involved. Also, the advertising agency employing the graphic artist is a major variable in the salary of the designer.

"It is a very, very stressful job." he admitted. He said that they are constantly working towards deadlines unlike in fine art. Another major source of the stress in the industry is the indecision of clients, especially those that are nearly impossible to please. Also adding to the stress, tension and possible frustration is the fact that most agencies handle the advertising needs of several clients simultaneously, thus adding to his workload. However, he believes that the majority of the public does not fully appreciate the hard work and effort which is placed into creating meaningful pieces of graphic art.

Fine artists have formed their reputations by appending their names to their works, however pieces of graphic design are usually anonymous. Mr. Smith stated that unless your name is associated with the company you work under, the reputation of a graphic artist is spread by word of mouth. On most occasions, the credit is given to the advertising agency and not the designer himself.
A pet peeve of his is the lack of respect sometimes given to graphic artists. It is his view that despite the customer always being right, there are some boundaries that should not be crossed. It is his belief that the client should also respect that graphic designers are professionals at what they do and the client should place more trust into the designer's judgement. He lamented that clients often think that they can do the designer's work better than them. Sadly, this is not the case.

Another irritation he constantly faces in modern society is the arrogance and ignorance of most casual users of photo-editing software or websites such as Picnik. It is a reality that most of this category of users are not educated about the graphic arts, however they believe that they are professionals simply because they can use these programs. He applauds their determination to further themselves as designers, but he simply resents the arrogance and smug attitude of most of these novices.

When asked to provide any advice to young and upcoming graphic artists, he remarked that having a creative mind is a necessity in the industry. Apart from having a high level of skill, a competitive edge is gained if the designer has the ability to come up with new innovative ways for the communication of the client's ideas.
He also recommended for those aspiring towards a career in the graphic arts to participate in certified communication and graphic design programmes to further their skills and knowledge. Furthermore, they must become adept at using the industrial standard of graphic programs, namely the Adobe CreativeSuite. Professional graphic artists must learn to master Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Designers must always keep abreast of new program releases and updates to graphics software.

Some more of David Smith's work is featured below:

More of Mr. Smith's work can be found at his digital portfolio at

David Smith continues to strive to be the best he can be and use all of his skills to become a better graphic designer. When asked about his plans for the future, he said that he simply plans to keep abreast of modern trends in advertising strategies and become the best he can be.


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