Web and Graphic Design: A Brief Introduction to Their Key Differences

If you’ve made it this far into the internet, you’ve encountered your fair share of websites and graphics. These are the work of professional web and graphic designers. Both help make information easier to absorb and digest and aesthetically pleasant.

Whether you’re an employer looking to fill roles in your company or an entrepreneur looking to collaborate with an expert, knowing which designer would fit best for your project is crucial.

Learn about the basic skills and knowledge required in web and graphic design, their differences and similarities, and which role is the perfect match for your team.

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What Is Graphic Design?

Graphic design is the professional practice of creating imagery and illustrative assets to communicate your message to your audience visually. It mainly comprises your logo color palette, typography, social media assets, and more.

Think of it as the general umbrella under which focused and specialized visual efforts belong. A working understanding of graphic design basics, elements, and principles equips you with the relevant skills to apply to other fields and industries, like web design.

A graphic designer is skilled in creating, editing, and illustrating with a purpose. Design, at its core, is meant to achieve and work towards an objective using fundamental design principles: balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, proportion, and rhythm. These all work together to connect businesses to reach and communicate with consumers effectively.

To do these, a graphic designer would need to learn and do well with the following:

  • Color theory – Even the most skilled designers must continue practicing how familiar they are with color theory and how to apply it well.
  • Communication skills – Whether you’re communicating with the team or creating assets for your customers to see, graphic designers need to enhance their communication skills effectively.
  • Typography and typeface design – A small but impactful detail to your visuals, typefaces are generally well designed. Still, should they need editing or modifications, designers need the know-how to do so.
  • Digital design skills – Most of their work involves digital tools using design software. Find designers who are adept with the essential programs for your project.
  • Traditional art basics – Depending on the work, you might want to look for graphic designers who have a traditional skillset and are familiar with your process.

What Is Web Design?

Knowing what we’ve established about graphic design, think of it applied in the context of designing a website. It takes a more specific skillset to develop and design a website, considering the user interface and how the user will experience the platform.

Web design is the professional practice involving the creation and development of websites. This can be for any number of organizations, including small businesses, non-profits, established companies, or individual portfolios. All of these require a web designer to set up and polish.

A beautiful website can speak volumes about your organization’s credibility. Aside from skills gained from graphic design experience, what skills does a web designer need to build your online platform?

  • Working understanding of CMS tools – Content management systems, or CMS, is the backend of the website people are typically exposed to. It’s where the majority of your content will be set up before your audience can see it.
  • Programming and web development basics – While not a requirement, it’s good to know how to code a website. This makes collaborating within the team a smoother process, and in conceptualizing designs, a graphic designer can know which ideas are feasible.
  • Concepts of UI and UX – You’ve undoubtedly encountered the term before if you’ve browsed through the best website design trends. Most experienced designers are pursuing UI and UX to improve their expertise in the growing industry. As mentioned briefly above, best practices of user interface and user experience prioritize your audience and how they will engage and interact with your website.

How Are Web Design and Graphic Design Different?

As you would expect, specialists work best in their optimal environment. The same applies to both graphic and web design professionals. They have similar, interconnected skills and tasks that can blur the line between them, so don’t worry if you’ve been confused about it all this time.

Let’s clarify the specific tasks that each of them has to help define how they are different:

Difference #1: Advancement in Technical Skills

An excellent understanding of graphic design can equip you to craft web design, but the reverse is less than true. Consider it the genesis of your design journey, and as you gain more experience and technical skills, you can choose to specialize in designing websites.

While both roles are expected to keep up with industry changes, web design trends are constantly shifting as more businesses spring up and build their online platforms. These establish their online presence beyond social media and bolster their status and reputation.

Difference #2: Crafting Dynamic vs. Static Designs

Graphic design tends to be static and immobile, while web design needs to be adaptable and flexible depending on the platform used for the site. There can be graphic, unmoving elements on a website, but the platform’s design must adjust if the user views it from their tablet, phone, or even a smaller monitor than usual.

Difference #3: Optimization, Resolution, and Dimensions

Web designs live in the digital world and therefore follow optimization and resolution requirements different from designs typically printed or created traditionally. However, maintain a manageable file size for your web designs to ensure they load as quickly as possible. It only takes 50 microseconds for users to decide how appealing your website is, which makes an attractive design vital to your platform.

Meanwhile, graphic designs aren’t always printed, but when they are, it's crucial to know the dimensions and quality needed for the final rendition. This is so the printed material isn’t pixelated or stretched that it’s produced to the expected quality.

Difference #4: Project Timeline with the Designer

While the web development industry is fast-paced, many renditions and continuous updates require a long partnership between the business and the designer. Since up to 90% of designers are freelancers, setting a timeline for your contract with them is essential. Graphic designers can usually expect to work for the duration it takes for the project to be produced and eventually launched. In contrast, web designers may have a long term with a company.

Establish these expectations at the beginning of your agreement to find the designer that best fits your needs.

Similarities Between Web Design and Graphic Design

Your idea of web and graphic design being similar isn’t completely unfounded. Thanks to the field being interconnected and roles often being expected to have several skills under their belt, this assumption is more common than you think.

Typically, any designer's workday would flow similar to the following:

  • Discuss projects and objectives with the art director and stakeholders
  • Conceptualize, explore, and craft designs
  • Keep track of new design trends and practices
  • Collaborate with the team to create concepts
  • Advise and oversee the design process as needed
  • Develop and produce the final design

How Graphic Designers Help Your Company

Creating visuals is essential to your work process for internal or external purposes. Most, if not all, organizations can benefit from having an expert in designing graphics on their team. You can specify the details of the role as needed, whether your project requires a specialist in technical documentation, marketing visuals, or others.

How Web Designers Benefit Your Business

We can all appreciate a well-designed space that effectively delivers data and communicates the organization’s goals to its audience. In the early days of the internet, having a website containing all the necessary information was enough. However, the more populated it becomes, the more discerning the users have grown to be.

Web designers have extensive expertise to build your website at an accelerated pace to help you keep up with the competition. Find out how to choose a web design agency to match your business’s needs and which skills you should look for in your search.

Web Design vs. Graphic Design: Which Matches Your Project?

If you’re still unsure which role would better match your project, you can rest assured that the industry is full of talented people ready to expand their resumes and do their best to help you achieve your goals.

At the very least, we recommend looking for experienced designers who are capable of the following:

  • Have a thorough understanding of design fundamentals
  • Be able to keep track of new design trends and techniques
  • Equipped with creativity in problem solving and collaboration
  • With these, you’re sure to find a design professional who can adapt to your needs.
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