Graphic design is a wide-ranging field of endeavor that communicates concrete and conceptual ideas by visual elements. Most often, people associate graphic design with illustration of real and abstract imagery to convey an idea. While this constitutes a large portion of graphic design, the endeavor actually employs many disciplines, including text, in the field of graphic design.
There are four primary disciplines of graphic design that will be reviewed: illustration, photography, animation and text. There are other disciplines, but they are really sub-sets of these four basic skills.
Illustration is the discipline most people think of first when thinking about graphic design. The illustrative skills range from exacting duplication of real, concrete objects such that the resulting image is a virtual duplication of an object model within the illustrative view, to creation of abstract images that may or may not immediately evoke recognition of what the image is trying to communicate.
An example of concrete illustration is Da Vinci's portrait, Mona Lisa, which is the most commonly recognized illustrative portrait of a person in the world.
A prime example of abstract illustration skill is the development of a corporate image by design of a logo-type, an image that represents a company's identity, such as the common apple with a small bite taken out of it representing Apple, Inc., or the paired yellow arches representing McDonalds Corporation. In both cases, the graphic image without any other textual suggestion have been so engrained in society, one recognizes the company and its products by the logo, alone.
Photography, as well, has variation in its use and not just because it can be manipulated in black and white or color. Photography is the easiest form of graphic design to demonstrate a concrete object; the image, depending on lighting, background, and other compositional details, will represent an exact, recognizable image of the object, or, the image can be manipulated by close-up expansion to the point that not only is the object entirely unrecognizable, it may not even be apparent of what material it is made.
Further, with the advent of digital photography, the original captured image can be manipulated to add to, extract from or modify the original image.
Animation is the skill of using either of the above skills, or combining them, to enable multiple images to be presented sequentially at such speed, each individual image is seamlessly compounded one after the other to become an image in motion, such as with very popular animated feature films produced by Disney, Pixar, etc. Here again, the advent of digital graphics has greatly enhanced this discipline.
Text design can be as simple as shaping a body of ordinary text, like a paragraph, to fit a manipulated shape rather than its traditional square, line after line orientation. From that simple ability, text design can involve manipulation of text appearance or design of complete text fonts. Today, there are thousands of fonts from which to choose so that text will coordinate with the other three disciplines.