Jessica Halfand and William Drenttel have put together an excellent little primer about the fundamentals of what Graphic Design is over at Design Observer, what matters it concerns itself with, and what effective Graphic Design means. It’s a broad overview, but they hit most of the essentials. After all, they are veterans of the field. At the end they even kindly offer a list of books they recommend for further reading.
Long ago, to be a graphic designer was to distinguish yourself by defining your territory as fundamentally two-dimensional. Unlike artists, graphic designers had clients. Unlike architects, they delivered printed messages. Today, with the meteroric rise of desktop computing, social networking and mobile technologies, graphic design is the ultimate DIY activity. Or is it? Albert Einstein once said that the secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. So don’t ask us to explain how kerning works: just trust us.