Graphic Design vs. Web Design: What's the Difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published October 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Video: A Day in the Life of a Graphic Designer

In this video, we follow Jamie, a freelance graphic designer, who specializes in poster and zine design.

Graphic design and web design are two different roles, and each is important in both print and digital industries. Each of these professions requires a unique set of skills to deliver quality work. Understanding the differences between these types of design can help you determine which is right for you. In this article, we define graphic design and web design and explore their primary similarities and differences.

What is graphic design?

Graphic design focuses on communication by using graphics, images and typography to present an idea. Most graphic designers work in the print industry, but you can find them in digital industries where they help with different graphic design tasks, such as creating social media posts. They use layout techniques, visual arts and typography to create appealing visual compositions. To achieve this, they often master design elements such as color theory, layout, typography and visual hierarchy, and they can use design software comfortably.

Related: How To Pursue a Career as a Graphic Designer

What is web design?

Web design involves building a website and creating its aesthetic, performance and maintenance. With every website development project, web designers often focus on different aspects of user experience, search engine optimization, standardizing codes, wireframe layouts and proper image and content organization. To achieve optimal results, they also have some knowledge about graphic design. It is vital for them to know layout, typography, hierarchy and color theory to create attractive websites.

Related: Learn About Being a Web Designer

Graphic design vs. web design

Below is a list of differences and similarities between graphic design and web design:

Technical skills

Both website and graphic design require a unique skill set. If you choose to pursue web design, you may need to be familiar with front-end programming languages to create a professional website. If you choose a graphic design career path, you may work with the design tools to create graphics for websites and other projects. Coding experience is not a requirement to create effective graphics, but it may be beneficial when working with a web designer.

Related: Technical Skills: Definitions and Examples

Level of interaction

With web design, users can interact with websites in different ways. For example, they can click a button to sign up, click another one to navigate different web pages or hover over other sections to view more information. Graphic design doesn't offer such kind of interactivity. For instance, you can look and touch a printed brochure and nothing changes. The same thing applies to printed images, logos and graphics on items such as boxes and clothes.

Print and digital images

Another important difference between web design and graphic design is the nature of the content created. With web design, content most often appears digitally. Even when written on a slip of paper, it can only appear on a website once converted into digital format. Graphic design can include both digital content and printed materials, including posters, book covers, e-books, social media posters and brochures.

Related: What Is Information Management? Definition and Benefits

Website performance

Website loading speeds depend on many factors, and file sizes are influential in providing a great user experience. Web designers often ensure every image, graphic, motion and animation they upload looks aesthetically pleasing, maintains performance and is of the right size. In general, graphic designers don't need to worry about the performance or loading speed of websites. In fact, creating large files for them is more important because it makes it easier to resize them down without loss of quality.

Maintenance

A website goes through continuous changes once created to keep up with the current trends. As it grows, web designers ensure it adapts to current trends. For example, ensuring it is SEO-friendly, mobile-friendly and provides the best user experience possible. Once a graphic designer completes a project of creating graphics for a new page, a graphic designer's relationship with the project ends there. If you need additional images, logos or graphics, a new project begins.

Communication skills

As a graphic designer or web designer, it is essential you be able to communicate well with anyone that the project you're working on involves. Try to update your progress in a way everyone involved can understand. Whether verbally or through writing, your communication skills go a long way in helping you excel in your career. These skills improve the way you work and can go a long way in smoothing your relationships with others, especially when attracting new customers.

Related: 21 Ways To Improve Your Communication Skills

Knowledge of design fundamentals

Both graphic design and web design require you to have a good understanding of the design fundamentals. Whether you're a graphic designer or web designer, it's essential for you to know how to use color and typography to achieve a clearer hierarchy to your designs. While design fundamentals are more significant in graphic design, they help create effective and responsive sites in web design.

Creative problem-solving

Both web design and graphic design help you solve problems with every new project you undertake. You solve problems through branding, graphics and images design and printed material as a graphic designer. As a web designer, you solve problems by creating websites depending on your clients' needs. Whatever field you're in, your creativity can help you strengthen your relationships with your clients. You nurture solid relationships with your customers if you can surpass their expectations.

Related: 10 Ways To Improve Your Creative Problem-Solving Skills

Following trends

Web design and graphic design are constantly growing with advances in technology. Just find time and go through the history of web design and graphic design. You're going to notice how each discipline has developed over the years, and with advances in technology, they continue to grow. To remain competitive, it's essential that graphic designers and web developers update their knowledge as soon as there is an advancement. They can do that by taking alternative courses online or working alongside professionals who are already conversant with the recent improvements.

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