So you’ve got a project coming up and you know you need a designer to jump on board. But what type of designer?

A graphic designer? A web designer? What’s the difference anyway?

They might both know how to make something look good, but these two job roles are quite different.

Different skill sets, different mediums and different end results.

Of course there’s some overlap, but don’t stress. We’re here to iron out the information and clear up the confusion so you can choose the right expert for your project.

What is Graphic Design?

Graphic design is all about communicating an idea to an audience through visual elements like images, typography and graphics.

It’s an old discipline that has its roots in print. Graphic designers might design things like brochures, magazines, posters, business cards etc.

Nowadays graphic design is also used in digital and online platforms as well as print. Graphic designers create logos, icons and other digital assets for websites and online platforms.

Typically graphic designers don’t need programming knowledge as they’re focused on the visual outcome. If their designs are intended for online use, they are usually translated into code by a front end web developer.

What is Web Design?

Website design is all about creating and maintaining websites that look great and function well.

Like a graphic designer, a web designer uses visual elements to communicate a message to an audience. However, web designers only work with an online medium, not print.

Web designers usually provide both UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) design services. That means they care about how a user interacts with a website as well as the way they feel doing so.

Web designers usually have programming knowledge such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript etc. While they might still leave the coding up to a web developer, they’ll at least know how to talk the language and design with coding limitations in mind.

Graphic design vs website design

Put it this way – web designers need to have sound graphic design knowledge and skills. But graphic designers don’t necessarily need to have the coding and technical knowledge that web designers have.

Web designers don’t necessarily need to know how to design for print, but they sure as heck need to know how to optimise design for the web.

Shall we dive deeper into the nitty gritty distinctions? Here are 4 major differences between graphic design and web design.

1. Web design is interactive with a focus on experience

Because of its roots in print, graphic design is traditionally something you view as opposed to something you interact with. Graphic designers create layouts that guide people visually rather than through actions such as scrolling, clicking and typing.

In contrast, the primary focus of web design has always been to create an experience for the user. Instead of just consuming the visuals, web designers concern themselves with the question: how will people participate with my design?

Like graphic design, web design deals with visual elements like colour, shape, font etc. However web design also pulls in other elements such as navigation and CTA buttons that guide users through the experience.

How your customers feel when they’re on your website is a big deal that can influence sales dramatically. It’s one of the reasons why website design really matters for eCommerce stores.

2. Web designers maintain their designs

Graphic design projects such as brochures and logos tend to be once off projects that don’t need further developing and refining.

Websites on the other hand are more organic. Your website will change and grow as your business, the online environment and consumer behaviour evolves.

Website designers often work on ongoing projects that need refining and updating as time goes on. Even if they won’t be making changes in the future, web designers try to create websites that have the capacity to evolve and grow as necessary.

While a graphic designer might not think about the direct impact their work has on a business’ sales, website designers do. Part of their job is to look at the data and figure out how to improve a website to get better results.

3. Web designers care about speed and efficiency

A website that looks fantastic but takes 2 minutes to load isn’t going to cut it. These days people expect websites to work as smooth as butter. And if your website doesn’t, users are going to get out of there pretty quickly.

Web designers don’t just think about how to make something visually appealing, they also optimise for speed and efficiency.

When graphic designers work on print projects, quality matters most. That means file sizes tend to be pretty big without being a problem.

But that won’t cut it for web design where speed and performance are non-negotiables. Web designers are concerned with file size, screen resolution and optimising visuals for a faster load time.

4. A web designer isn’t a lone wolf

Many graphic designers can work on and complete projects on their own. But that’s hardly ever the case with web designers.

Don’t get me wrong, both web designers and graphic designers need good communication skills to achieve the goals that their client wants. They’ve got to talk with the client, manage expectations and translate desires into design.

The difference is, graphic designers are often the sole person to execute the outcome while web designers almost always work alongside other experts to achieve the end result.

For most web design projects, working closely with a web developer is part of the job. Developers take the design elements and translate them into code so that the website functions exactly how it should.

Design matters

Whether you need graphic design or web design services, one thing’s for sure – design really matters. It’s what grabs attention and communicates your message in the right way.

Not to mention it’s critical for on-point branding, building customer trust and increasing profitability. Yep, design should be a key consideration for every business, online and offline.

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