Brand Building: Are You a Graphic Designer in the Making?Who are the members of a building project team? Ask around and you’ll get some consistent answers: engineers, architects and construction professionals. A graphic designer is probably not the first position that comes to mind — or even the second or third. Yet, they are a secret weapon in a project’s success.

At Burns & McDonnell, our robust team of graphic designers works every day to support our firm. Many of their efforts are focused on the design of marketing pieces, brochures and websites. But sometimes they are called upon to design environmental signage for building projects. In Kansas City, Missouri, the most visible of those efforts is the signage at several exhibits in Science City.

Two of our graphic designers met recently with the students at Mason Elementary in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, who — as winners of the most recent Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains competition — are working with our team to create yet another exhibit for Science City — the first one outdoors.

The students have had the chance to pick the brains of the project’s engineers and architects. Now, they’re getting an inside look at how graphic designers support the effort.

What is a Graphic Designer?

Think about your daily routine: How many times do you think you encounter graphic design? It’s everywhere — from your cereal box to your milk carton, from what’s on your tablet to what’s in your magazines, from restroom signs to parking signs.

Simply put, graphic designers are visual communicators. They have many tools — typefaces, colors and imagery. Each design challenge they face has thousands of solutions, which is both exhilarating and overwhelming. The trick is choosing which solutions work best for a given project.

The graphic designers’ vision helps shape an exhibit — the colors, the feel and how the messaging is communicated. Graphic designers work closely with the project team throughout the project, from creating the logo and selecting the palette to developing the brand and, yes, designing the signs.

Types of Graphic Designers

Graphic designers sometimes specialize in a specific type of design, though some are skilled in more than one area of specialty. These are just a few examples of types of graphic designers:

  • Print designers focus on graphic design purposely created for printing. In this increasingly digital world, some may think this specialty is shrinking. But lots of materials are printed: books, newspapers, magazines, brochures, billboards, product packaging, apparel and more.
  • Digital designers design for the electronic tools that have become our constant companions. Most often, these folks are designing for the web or mobile apps.
  • UX/UI designers are focused on the user experience (UX) and the user interface (UI). UX designers use tools like wireframes, site maps and storyboards to help shape how the product feels to the consumer. UI designers give form to these plans with Photoshop or Illustrator.
  • Environmental designers are experienced working with the intersection of architecture and graphics. They help establish a sense of place through two- and three-dimensional forms, graphics and signage.

So, Are You a Future Graphic Designer?

Architecture and engineering may have a higher profile, but graphic design is also a wonderful blend of art and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). So, how will you know if graphic design is right for you? Answering yes to several of these questions might be a good indication:

  • Do you like using creativity to solve problems?
  • Do you like to teach yourself new things?
  • Do you like to draw?
  • Are you a visual thinker?
  • Are you comfortable working on a computer or tablet?
  • Do you have a good sense of color and style?

Did you notice we didn’t ask if you could draw, only if you liked to draw? You don’t have to be great at hand-drawing to become a graphic designer. You just need a natural curiosity, a commitment to improving yourself through study and practice, and a desire to make your mark on the world.

Are you surprised by the integration of graphic design in a building process? Comment or connect with us on Twitter and Facebook — our designers would love to hear from you!

The drive to strengthen communities is the heartbeat of Burns & McDonnell, in our work and with the Burns & McDonnell Foundation. Over the past few years, we’ve invested more than $5 million in grant programs that support STEM education, from an innovative educational competition to K-12 outreach efforts.

Julee Koncak is director of the Burns & McDonnell Foundation and community relations director at Burns & McDonnell, where giving, volunteering and grant programs are focused on STEM education and other community initiatives.

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