Story: Graphic design

Page 1. Profession and training

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Defining graphic design

Graphic design concerns the way in which images, typography and layout express ideas and information. Graphic designers create art to promote or develop goods, services and ideas. They can also design art and layouts for textiles, websites, advertisements, books and other media. Design historian Philip Meggs has said the essence of graphic design ‘is to give order to information, form to ideas, expression and feeling to artifacts that document human experience’.1

Teaching graphic design

New Zealand’s first graphic designers were known as commercial artists. They received general training at art schools such as Canterbury College School of Art (founded in 1882), Wellington’s School of Design (1886) and Auckland’s Elam School of Art (1889).

In 1962 the Wellington School of Design, now part of Wellington Polytechnic, began offering the first three-year full-time diploma in design, including graphic design. Around the same time, commercial studios specialising in visual communication design started to appear, providing graduate work opportunities. The diploma became a degree programme in 1992 after Massey University absorbed Wellington Polytechnic. From the 1980s private providers such as Auckland’s Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design began offering tertiary graphic design qualifications. In 2013 there were 30 graphic design courses in New Zealand.

Black Pin

The Designers’ Institute Black Pin is awarded to a member who makes a lasting and valuable contribution to the profession. In 2013 the winner was Grenville Main, a graphic designer who took the Wellington firm BNA from a graphic design team to a strategic consultancy across many media.

Designers’ Institute

The Designers’ Institute of New Zealand was formed in 1991 by the merger of the New Zealand Society of Industrial Designers (formed in 1960) and the New Zealand Associaiton of Interior Designers (1968). The institute works to represent and increase the public profile of the design profession. It lobbies the government on behalf of its members and provides input into regulation affecting designers.

Design awards

In the mid-1970s the National Graphic Design Awards (renamed Best New Zealand Design Awards in 1988) were established to recognise New Zealand’s best graphic design. In 1992 the awards were extended to include other design disciplines. The best entries in each category are awarded a Gold Pin. The very best projects in each discipline receive a Purple Pin.

Footnotes:
  1. Philip B. Meggs, A history of graphic design. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1983, p. viii. Back
How to cite this page:

Hamish Thompson, 'Graphic design - Profession and training', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/graphic-design/page-1 (accessed 7 August 2020)

Story by Hamish Thompson, published 22 Oct 2014