Graphic Design vs Web Design: What’s the Difference?

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Graphic design and web design may seem like they’re the same thing, especially to someone who doesn’t know much about the design world. These two specialties have a few similarities, but they actually have even more differences! Since these jobs aren’t the same, you may have a hard time figuring out which one you need to help with your website and marketing for your business. Let’s dive into a full comparison of graphic design vs web design!

What is Graphic Design?

Graphic design is the art of creating images, sometimes alongside text, through digital mediums. The people who use this art form are known as graphic designers, and most of the time, graphic design is used to relay a specific message to a targeted audience for a distinct purpose. Traditionally, graphic designers worked on print media, but the internet is an essential part of our everyday lives, so digital media is also in the wheelhouse of graphic designers. Some common places you’ll find graphic design elements are email campaigns, social media posts, websites, PDFs, business cards, etc.

graphic designer creating a logo on a computer

What is Web Design?

Web design is the skill of creating a layout and design for a website. Web designers have to know about programming and site architecture in addition to graphic design to build websites. They also consider user experience (UX), or how people will interact with the website, and user interface (UI), or how the website is laid out and overall style. Other best practices for web design include making navigation simple, prioritizing accessibility for disabled users, and following SEO best practices.

Graphic Design vs Web Design

So now you know what each of these design mediums are, but how are they different?

Graphic DesignWeb Design
Technical SkillsGraphic designers will need to know how to use illustration platforms.Web designers must be familiar with programming languages like HTML and CSS and use constraints like file size and load time.
FlexibilityMost projects are static; they won’t need to change.Web design is dynamic and will need to be able to change and adapt.
InteractionGraphic design is created with the purpose of looking at it.Web design is created so a user can interact with it (clicking buttons, watching videos, etc.)
TypographyThe font won’t change once the project is saved or printed.Fonts may not show up properly if a user’s browser doesn’t recognize the typeface in their CSS.

Expertise of Graphic Designers and Web Designers

While there is some overlap of skills and expertise for graphic designers and web designers, there are also distinct differences. Here are the skill sets you should know when thinking about graphic design vs web design.

Graphic designers have several skill sets that will be put to use. Some of them include:

  • Typography – Know how to choose fonts and arrange them with graphics in an aesthetically pleasing way.
  • Design Principles – How to use white space, color, hierarchy, etc.
  • UX Design – Basic knowledge of user experience is helpful for simple digital designs, especially those that will be interactive in some way.
  • Color – When to use RGB and CMYK color modes, as well as color theory.
  • Brand Guidelines – Need to know what the brand guidelines are to adhere to them while designing
  • Photo Editing – Will need to know how to edit photos since many projects include photography
  • Digital Technology – Some graphic design is still printed, but a majority of it has moved to digital mediums, so graphic designers will need to know how to use certain digital technologies.
web designer creating a mockup of a website on paper

Web designers will have similar areas of expertise as graphic designers, but with several additional skills as well. The most important skills for a web designer include:

  • Visual Design – All of the skills we mentioned under graphic designers are helpful as a web designer, like color theory, typography, and proportions.
  • UX (User Experience) – Websites must be created with the end user in mind since they will be navigating it, so when a web designer is crafting a site, they have to keep user experience in mind.
  • Software Knowledge – Need to know how to use certain softwares to create site mockups, edit photos, etc.
  • CSS – Stands for Cascading Style Sheets. This is a coding language used by internet browsers on how to format HTML on a webpage, and it is used to change fonts, colors, and backgrounds.
  • HTML – Stands for HyperText Markup Language. This is a coding language that provides structure on a website.

Purpose of a Graphic Designer vs Web Designer

You may be wondering what the roles of a graphic designer and web designer are and what exactly they would be doing for your website.

A graphic designer creates a visual identity for a business. They ensure all of the design materials are cohesive and follow brand guidelines, creating a consistent persona that customers will recognize immediately. Graphic designers typically have a hand in a company’s overall marketing strategy by designing print materials (like posters, business cards, flyers, etc.) and digital graphics (like emails, banners, social media posts, etc.). 

graphic designer's desk covered in sticky notes with design program open on desktop computer

A web designer constructs the layout and aesthetic of a website. Yes, they also follow brand guidelines, but they also ensure the interface and navigation are user friendly and intuitive at the same time. In addition to making sure things look beautiful and work well for users, they also fix functionality issues, maintain the site, and provide updates to the website as needed.

Now you know more about graphic design vs web design. Both types of designers are essential to a successful business, and while they may have a little overlap, each one brings a unique skillset to the table. If you find yourself in need of a graphic designer or a web designer, you don’t have to look far! We have both on our team, and we would be happy to work with you to create beautiful graphics and a user friendly website! Reach out to us for more information on our digital marketing services!

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