Does Graphic Design Require Math?

It depends on which country you live/study in and the policies of the University however, the straightforward answer is no.

Typically, many artists will tell you that art and maths lie on opposite ends of the spectrum. That’s a whole other topic but my point is that to study Graphic Design at University, the most important thing is your creativity, design sense, and a portfolio of relevant work.

Graphic Designers come in all different shapes and sizes but one thing for sure is that mathematics is largely irrelevant in Design (I wish I could go back to my old maths teacher and put that in his pipe to smoke)!

Creativity, aesthetic taste, and lateral thinking are more valuable than mathematical knowledge in Graphic Design. If you wish to become a Web Designer, however, then your mathematical and coding skills will need to be polished.

For Graphic Design studies, you should focus on understanding typography, layout, color values, and understanding Design software (such as Illustrator and InDesign).

Graphic artists certainly do need math in making measurements.

Moreover, when they scale an image or drawing, they certainly use numbers to do this.

Note that dimensions, patterns, and geometry in graphic design use Math.

If ever you’re one of those asking “does graphic design require math”, let’s find out more of the answer in this article.

1. Understanding Math In Graphic Design

  • Graphic designers use scale, plus, understand percentages along with proportions, geometry, and using degrees.
  • This includes symmetry and center lines to understand positive and negative spaces. 
  • In recognizing Inverted patterns and using pattern recognition, one must understand how rotating images work.
  • Graphic designers can use mathematical perspective to show different viewpoints.
  • They should understand scaling to know how images increase or decrease in size.
  • It’s also no secret that like mathematicians, artists also use geometry.
  • Geometric shapes occur throughout a design and it’s important that artists understand this field of math.

2. Graphic Design Courses Requiring Math

US

Math is an important component in many BA Graphic Design Degree courses.

This includes units in algebra, calculus, plus possibly perspective geometry or business statistics. 

Canada

The system is like the US.

Students need three to four math credits to complete a Graphic Design Degree.

This can include business statistics, visualizations, plus perspective geometry.

UK

Students must have a GCSE maths qualification.

GCSE in Information Technology is useful at the Secondary School level (High School).

3. Computer Graphics And Visualizations

  • Graphic Designers need a good understanding of computer graphics.
  • Using computer graphics will need math skills.
  • The three computer programs that graphic designers use are Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Dreamweaver.
  • Programming uses math skills. 
  • HTML, CSS, and Javascript are the three major programs that are used.
  • HTML is the main web program.
  • CSS is a style sheet program.
  • Graphic Designers use CSS with HTML.
  • Javascript is a text-based language.
  • Graphic designers use computer programs extensively in visualizations.
  • In engineering, this could include CAD or Computer-Aided Design and CAM or Computer Aided Manufacture.

Visualization

  • Visualization is a visual means of explanation.
  • This can explain complex science.
  • Examples could include a section through a volcano showing the progression of an eruption.
  • It can also be how vaccines control COVID 19 or a car explosion showing all the parts and their relationship.
  • Visualizations are used extensively in weather maps, plus they are used in spreadsheets and graphs.
  • Graphic design specialists use graphic programs to visualize specific topics.
  • Visualization can include educational and product visualizations.
  • One needs good general knowledge and an understanding of science and math.
  • Graphic designers can help produce prototypes of products just like automobile prototypes.

4. Measurements 

  • The US still uses the old British Imperial Measurement System but the rest of the world is now more or less metric.
  • This is where a basic understanding of math is essential for a graphic designer.
  • One may need to convert one system into the other.
  • Canada uses the metric system, but given its close commercial ties to the US, it runs both systems more or less.
  • A client from Europe gives you metric measurements.
  • If you’re a graphic designer from US using imperial measurements, you must know how to convert what was given.

5. Perspective

  • Perspective was developed in the Italian Renaissance.
  • Artists, such as Piero Della Francesca, used perspective.
  • Perspective is based on math.
  • It can be one point, two-point, three-point, and aerial perspective.
  • One point perspective uses one vanishing point.
  • Think of railroad tracks.
  • The two-point perspective uses two dimensions.
  • Think of a block that has its width and length diminish towards the horizon.
  • Three-point shows height as the third dimension that recedes.
  • Perspective is a useful tool for a graphic designer that can add a real impression to a design.

6. The Golden Mean And Color Theory

  • The Golden Mean is found everywhere in western architecture, art, and design.
  • This was originally Greek and based on math.
  • The basic principle of the Golden Mean is moderation, or striving for a balance between extremes.
  • Apple Logo is based on the Golden Mean ratio which is 1.61803398875.
  • It was also used in the work of Leonardo da Vinci and many paintings, such as the landscapes of Claude Lorrain.
  • A graphic designer must understand this to create a design that has harmony, balance and proportion.

7. Celtic Design

  • The pattern is very much a feature of the art of the Celts.
  • This includes a range of different cultures over a long period.
  • It is best associated with the art and designs of the Irish and Scottish Celts.
  • There is a fusion of the early Irish Church and pagan Celtic designs.
  • Geometry and pattern was very much a feature of this art and design.
  • Celtic design includes the distinctive Triskele symbol, which are three triple spirals that show rotational symmetry.
  • It also uses many images of mythical creatures combined with rhombuses, spirals, crosses, and knots.