Graphic Design vs. Web Design: Five Key Differences

Shelby Jordan
6/30/2021

Graphic design and web design—some consider them the same. Although both involve design, there is a great difference between the two. Knowing the difference between graphic design and web design and how they work together is important for your business or organization. 

It’s easy to think that graphic design agencies and web design companies do the same thing. After all, both work toward the same goal: To convey a message by using visual media. However, they are two different fields of expertise, and the way they achieve their end products are also different.

In this article you will learn:

  • What are graphic design and web design?
  • What makes them seem similar? 
  • What are the key differences between the two?
  • Are they incompatible?
  • How do graphics design and web design work together to create a better user experience? 

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

Graphic design is the process of creating visual content to convey a message. This is done by designing the layout of text and pictures to relay information and give the viewer an interesting visual experience through digital marketing materials. Graphic design is also used in creating physical media such as billboards, ad posters, and print advertisements. 

Web design refers to the creation of sites on the internet and how the site can be easily used by customers.

Web design describes how a website appears on the page, usually arranged to appeal to and assist customers.

Source

Web design concepts involve creating the appearance, layout, usability, and content of a website Initially, web design focused on desktop browsers but now also includes mobile and tablet browsers. 

What Makes Them Seem Similar?

People often conflate graphic design and web design because both engage visual mediums. Web design and graphic design both use text and pictures to convey a message.

There are many options for color and font to enhance messaging on a website.

Source

Both also use layout, typography, color, and visual design to communicate a defined message.

What Are the Key Differences Between Graphic Design and Web Design?

There are several key factors that differentiate graphic design from web design.

1. Scope and Media

Traditionally, graphic design can be done on physical material using tools such as pen and paper. It can also be done digitally using a computer and illustration and design apps, with the finished product viewed and stored digitally and used in digital marketing campaigns.

Everything we see that has a visual element involves graphic design. This includes ads, posters, packaging, flyers, book covers. In some instances, in graphic design, there is a product that can be physically held. 

In web design, graphic design is used in arranging the visual elements of a site. Graphic design is involved in laying out how the site looks, including color, font, images, and other visual elements. 

Web design cannot be done without using some kind of graphic design. In web design, there is no physical product. The product exists virtually on the web. 

2. Skill Sets

These fields require an overlapping yet distinct skillset and expertise. In web design, designers often must know how to program. Web design is not just about how a website looks; it also involves how the website functions. 

With graphic design, programming knowledge is not necessary.

3. Output

Graphic design products are usually permanent. With web design, it is more dynamic. In graphic design after the material has been finished, changes are seldom done. 

In web design, the sites are modified, improved, and even completely redesigned to meet the needs of the users. 

4. User Experiences

In graphic design, the interaction between the designer and the viewer is often one-way. Usually, the graphic designer is not aware of how the viewer reacted to the design. 

In web design, the user experience is interactive. The website was designed to track how the user is navigating the site and responding to the tools the web designer built into the site.  

5. Limitations 

Graphic designers are limited by the space they have to work in. They cannot expand indefinitely. On the other hand, web designers work in a digital medium that, theoretically, has infinite space to expand in.

Web designers work in a world of many possibilities — creativity is key.

The challenges in web design comes with the technology they have to work with. Their product must be able to work on different digital platforms.

 Are They Incompatible?

No. There are many processes in graphic design and web design that overlap. The two are not incompatible but rather complementary.

Web designers employ graphic designers to make their sites visually appealing. Though graphic designers use digital space for their work, they do not aim to replace the work of web designers. The graphics designers work to support the web designers while the web designers give graphic designers a venue wherein to show their visual work. 

How Do Graphic Design and Web Design Work Together to Create a Better User Experience?

An important foundation of good brand marketing is having a unified marketing approach. Put simply, it means that your messaging should be consistent in both physical and digital platforms. 

To achieve this, you need the services of both a graphic designer and a web designer. A unified marketing approach solidifies your identity in both media platforms and these platforms complement each other. 

For example, a billboard can lead a customer to the company website. On the flip side, a customer can search a company website for a product they got interested in after seeing the packaging. 

How does this look like when it comes to digital? You use graphic design to determine the permanent elements of your website like fonts and colors. These static elements should mesh seamlessly with the more interactive aspects of your UI like buttons and animation. 

Recognition, recall, and response are important for any brand. Graphic and web design work together to help your brand achieve these goals. 

Graphic Design and Web Design Work Best Together

Graphic design and web design are two different fields but they have some similarities. They are complementary and work together. If your company is aiming to be present in both digital and traditional media, you will need the services of both designers. 

Shelby Jordan