Are Graphic Designers and Web Designers One and The Same?

Design is an important aspect of advertising, marketing, branding, printing and even packaging. Nothing is more important than good design when it comes to packaging a product, digital or otherwise. However, for anyone who graduated design school a decade or so ago, times have changed drastically. Many different fields have now propped up for expert designers who wish to further specialize in their craft, most notable is the onslaught of opportunities for web designers.

Graphic designers and web designers share similarities, but there are also some very distinct differences in the two fields. Understanding these distinctions can help you launch a successful career that’s just right for you.

Web Design – For the Production & Maintenance of Websites

Web design is a vast field in itself. It encompasses interface design, user experience (UI) design, search engine optimization (SEO), authoring, coding and specializing in some proprietary software. Oftentimes, web designers are a part of a team that covers the design process.

Web designers are in tune with the habits of the website audience, they understand how a visitor moves through a website. And this information drives the decision during the website designing process.

Traditional graphic designers, who work in print, don’t have to care for different items interacting with each other. Their designs are stand-alone pieces. However, on the web, it is perfectly normal for the site visitors to jump from page to page, look at content that calls out to them as they ignore everything else, and decide where they’d like to click next.

That’s why text and its optimization for search is considered a part of web design also. The broader definition of web design encompasses all of the following professions:

  • Logo design
  • Social media promotion
  • Information architecture
  • Navigation design
  • Design for accessibility
  • HTML mark-up
  • Design for usability
  • User interface design
  • Copywriting
  • On-site SEO
  • Link-building
  • Coding of UI elements
  • Conversion rate optimization
  • PPC advertising

These activities can have a major impact on the success of a website, as well as the overall experience that the website is providing to its visitors. Also, this list clearly shows the range of a web designer’s toolkit.

Required skills: web application development, UI design, JavaScript, Jquery, PHP

Web Design Tools: Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe photoshop, other website editing and prototyping tools

Graphic Design – Visual Communication Using Typography & Illustration

The field of graphic design is a sub set of communication and visual design. Simply put, graphic design means creating solutions with the help of visual communication. These visual solutions can be on paper or digital. And these can be in either 2D or 3D. Also, graphic design output can be recreated and delivered over and over again if the need be.

Graphic designers have a wide scope when it comes to design. They can create and combine pictures, images, symbols and text to present their message or idea. They are adept at using typography, page layout techniques as well as a variety of visual art mediums to create beautiful and expansive visual compositions.

However, these is an overlap with web designers here, because oftentimes graphic designers are hired to create logos and website interfaces as well. Other jobs for graphic designers include:

  • Tattoo artists
  • Fashion sketches
  • Industrial design sketches
  • Typefaces
  • Animated characters
  • Flyers and brochures
  • Magazine layouts
  • Newspaper headlines
  • Advertisements
  • Movie credits

And these are just a few examples of what graphic designers are hired to create. Remember, as long as it can be consumed via visual media, it can be designed by a graphic designer.

Required Skills: Typesetting, concept development, marketing know-how, Adobe Creative Suite

Graphic Design Tools: Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, CorelDRAW

Differences Between Web Design and Graphic Design

As we have already established, the biggest difference between the two is the medium that they use.

Both web designers and graphic designers characteristically have a creative and imaginative mind. However, web designers tend to be good at thinking think systematically and logically. Graphic designers tend to have more creative freedom since they don’t have to work around the constraints of programming, screen resolution or even page loading speeds. Web designers on the other hand have to design while ensuring efficiency for web. Of course, there are professionals out there who’s jobs include a bit of both.

Now, it’s interesting to note that while both professions deal in color, they use completely different color modes to get the job done. Graphic design works with printing, and that’s why it often employs CMYK color mode. While web design works with RGB in accordance with its special imaging mode.

Similarly, there are plenty of choice when it comes to font selection for graphic designers. But web designers need to be more considerate to ensure that their design looks great across screens, despite server outputs. HTML characteristics mandate that only those fonts are used that are default on the visitor’s operating systems.

All in all, graphic design can deliver more of a performance than the web design, which is best when it remains unnoticeable while delivering great user experience. On the other hand, web design information has a much stronger ability to disseminate, of course with the help of 3rd party mediums. And as far as the audiences are concerned, graphic design may be consumed by people of all ages, while web designers have a certain demographic to cater to. However, a wider range of people are accessing and using digital media than ever before and this scope will only increase with time.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics agrees with the fact that graphic designing and web designing are two very different professions. On their website, the graphic design position is listed under the ‘’Arts & Design’ section. Web design falls in the ‘Computer and IT’ category.

This demarcation showcases the fact that the artistic projects are the domain of graphic designers, and projects with more technical flair are better off with web designer. The website goes on say that web designers have a higher median income at $66,000 per year. Graphic designers have a significantly lower median income at $47,000 per annum.

With all of that being said, we should note that all professions related to designing are now indispensable. Whether your calling is web design or graphic design, you must be able to demonstrate creativity and excellence in design as well as passion for your craft. Furthermore, online graphic design courses offer artistically inclined people a way to enhance their technical skills. That’s why it has become more important than ever to invest in Adobe training and learn more about visual concepts and how to translate them into design. With the right trainings and certifications, the sky is the limit.  

About The Author
VP Channel Sales at QuickStart

Shamsah Malik

Shamsah is an entrepreneurial, innovative professional with over ten years of sales, relationship management and business development experience within highly competitive SaaS, information technology, and SLED markets.