For my parents, friends, family that still don't know "what I do" as a Graphic Designer, it is many things, but broadly, I design "stuff" to clearly communicate a message. That "stuff" is delivered to me in many forms—a creative brief that simply describes a lofty concept for a logo; a badly formatted, multi-page Word document; scribbles of lines with which to "make an ad"—and the list goes on.
Many times, I have to re-create graphics or charts to accompany a document. This is done for many reasons. First, I want to ensure that the graphic maintains the same "look + feel" as the rest of a document which means using the same fonts, colors, etc. Second, there are many times when the graphic provided does not do a good job of visually communicating the message. In that case, it's my job to re-interpret the data and create a new visual representation to better illustrate the content. Lastly, I want to reader to WANT to read the graphic! So there are times when I can infuse the data with an element of fun (also goes hand in hand with my second point).
Two graphs or charts that I re-designed today serve to illustrate these points.
BEFORE: Completely unreadable if you're interested in the actual data. The 3-dimensionality has made it almost impossible to tell where the points for each age hit on the numbers. Because of this, it also fails to do a good job of visually comparing the volume of the difference between the salaries for "high school diploma" vs. "college degree"
AFTER: Nixing the 3-dimensionality really cleaned things up. And rather than using two solid, over-lapping shapes, I used a heavy line and a solid color. This really serves to provide a strong contrast between the two sets of data and allows a quick and easy visualization of the difference between salaries over time.
BEFORE: Readable but boring.
AFTER: Fun and visually telling. Uses graduation cap icons with dollar signs to visually convey the amount represented by each degree.