A category of fine art, graphic art covers a broad range of visual artistic expression, typically two-dimensional, i.e. produced on a flat surface. The term usually refers to the arts that rely more on line or tone than on color, especially drawing and the various forms of engraving; it is sometimes understood to refer specifically to printmaking processes, such as line engraving, aquatint, drypoint, etching, mezzotint, monotype, lithography, and screen printing (silk-screen, serigraphy). Graphic art further includes calligraphy, photography, painting, typography, computer graphics, and bindery. It also encompasses drawn plans and layouts for interior and architectural designs.
Throughout history, technological inventions have shaped the development of graphic art. In 2500 B.C., the Egyptians used graphic symbols to communicate their thoughts in a written form known as hieroglyphics. The Egyptians wrote and illustrated narratives on rolls of papyrus to share the stories and art with others.
During the Middle Ages, scribes manually copied each individual page of manuscripts to maintain their sacred teachings. The scribes would leave marked sections of the page available for artists to insert drawings and decorations. Using art alongside the carefully lettered text enhanced the religious reading experience.
Johannes Gutenberg invented an improved movable type mechanical device known as the printing press in 1450, the first outside of Asia. His printing press facilitated the mass-production of text and graphic art and eventually, replaced manual transcriptions altogether.
Again during the Renaissance years, graphic art in the form of printing played a major role in the spread of classical learning in Europe. Within these manuscripts, book designers focused heavily on typeface.
Due to the development of larger fonts during the Industrial Revolution, posters became a popular form of graphic art used to communicate the latest information as well as to advertise the latest products and services.
The invention and popularity of film and television changed graphic art through the additional aspect of motion as advertising agencies attempted to use kinetics to their advantage.
The next major change in graphic arts came when the personal computer was invented in the twentieth century. Powerful computer software enables artists to manipulate images in a much faster and simpler way than the skills of board artists prior to the 1990s. With quick calculations, computers easily recolor, scale, rotate, and rearrange images if the programs are known.
The scientific investigations into legibility has influenced such things as the design of street signs. New York City is in the process of changing out all of its street signs bearing all capital letters for replacement with signs bearing only upper and lower case letters. They estimate that the increased legibility will facilitate way-finding and reduce crashes and injuries significantly.
Graphic artists applying for positions in today's job market are expected to be familiar with computers and a variety of software programs in order to create the most appealing, up to date designs.
Graphic art software includes applications such as:Adobe Dreamweaver – a tool that facilitates the creation of webpages and dynamic internet content
Adobe Illustrator – an application that allows artists to manipulate vector graphics
Adobe InDesign – desktop publishing software used for layout and design manipulation
Adobe Photoshop – a bitmap graphics software including powerful graphics editing tools that provide a large variety of editing functionality
CorelDRAW – similar to Adobe Illustrator, it is another vector graphic manipulation tool
PhotoImpact – a digital photograph editor
QuarkXPress – similar to Adobe InDesign, it is another computer publishing software tool
Paint.net – photograph editing capabilities with lots of plugins to expand use
GIMP – similar to paint.net and Photoshop
Inkscape – similar to Illustrator
Beside computers and software, graphic artists are also expected to be creative with processing camera work, registration, crop marks, and masking.
One of the most common career paths for a graphic artist today is web design. With the popularity of the World Wide Web, the demand for web designers is immense. Graphic artists use their creativity with layouts, typography, and logos to market the products or services of the client’s business. In addition to creating graphical designs, graphic artists also need to understand hypertext, web programming, and web page maintenance in order to successfully create a web page. The responsibility for effective communication also falls under the auspices of the graphic designer.