Why Graphic Design And SEO Are No Longer Mutually Exclusive
Your typical graphic design specialist will no longer be sitting alone at their desk dreaming up concepts and agonising over fonts or colour matches.
Something that was previously unthinkable has come along to disrupt the clear boundary lines between graphic design and all the skills involved in creating and marketing a website.
When I started out in web design everyone had their own skill set. These skills were fiercely guarded, largely inaccessible and at worst a complete mystery to those who hadn’t been to a college or university to acquire them.
Graphic design was creative - web development was technical
Most people specialised in one or the other while only a few managed to get competent at both.
So to put a website together ten years ago you needed two people: a competent graphic designer and a competent web developer and that was pretty much it.
If you happened to be someone who had both these skills and could perform them for your customers at a reasonable level, then you were in business.
Most web design businesses started their life in this way and many still do.
A graphic designer then has been an indispensable part of a web design service since the beginning, just as much as the more technically minded web developer - one a right brain thinker the other a left brain thinker, the two happily existed in splendid isolation.
It was about a decade ago that search engine optimisation (SEO) was really taking off as another important skill in the website mix.
It was all very well the graphic designer and web developer coming up with beautifully designed websites, quite another to get the website to a place on Google’s search results where anyone could find it.
Fortunately in those early days, SEO was still something that fell under the technical umbrella which was handled by the web developers as they put together a website. Often simply building the website was enough in those days.
And so it continued. The web developer worked away on setting up the website and graphic designers worked on fonts, logos and all the nice visual stuff that goes into making a decent website. That was until recently when everything changed.
The catalyst for this change in the industry came from something Google decided to do.
Rein in SEOs.
SEO had, until fairly recently, been part of the more technical side of web development. Back then it was unheard of that graphic designers would need to have anything much to do with SEOs.
SEOs were from Mars and graphic designers were from Venus. One was sat at one end of the office working on concepts while the other was busy dealing with a hundred different ways of saying one keyword phrase at the other.
The job of an SEO was relatively dull and repetitive compared to what looked like the fun job of being a graphic designer.
Mercifully Google put an end to the robotic side of SEO with successive algorithm updates that shook the Internet world. SEO too had become a skill that was seen as specialist and in some cases a dark art.
To cut a long story short, SEO was largely about collecting links from other websites that were used to build authority and optimising for keywords.
There were no safeguards in place so the job of the SEO was largely to gain as many links as possible from all sorts of places on the Internet.
Google punishes black hat SEOs - everything changes
There was no room for being creative until Google came along, first with Google Panda in 2011 which knocked out low quality websites and then the equally potent Penguin.
Penguin knocked out the value of questionable links from other websites and in the worst cases this led to penalties for websites violating Google’s strict guidelines.
This created a problem for web companies. They could still build websites but now it was even more difficult to get them ranked with the old tricks of the trade no longer working.
A new approach was needed. The answer came from an unlikely source. The person traditionally employed working on making the website look nice. The graphic designer.
The not so big secret of SEO
To rank on Google now requires good content and lots of it from a authoritative sources. There are no real shortcuts anymore and the reality is most website owners are also having to compete with an ever decreasing span of attention.
Customers want their information quick and they want it easy and nicely presented.
The job of an SEO has morphed into content marketing and the job of a graphic designer has expanded into making that content look good enough to catch the eye and consume.
SEOs and graphic designers are now going to have to get used to understanding each other’s work, rather than burying heads in the sand and seeing each other as an annnoying problem that will go away.