The difference between graphic and web designer

Table of Contents

This post is a reaction on conclusion about web and graphic designer that was made great friend of mine on facebook this morning. I wanted to write my opinion in a simple and short form at first, but then I decided to rather make a post on this subject. Purpose of this post is not to force you my ideas or opinions. I just want you to make you think about it …

Many people are very myopic and tend to judge these two areas without really thinking about it. Today we will change this by hitting it straightforward. In order to start without including any biases, let’s take a look at web and graphic design field separately so we can compare them in full spectrum.

Graphic Design

When we ask people what do they think is the main subject of graphic design, frequent answer will probably something like creating logos, icons and other similar visual stuff. Some of them might also mention posters, magazine covers and advertisement like billboards for example. However, graphic design goes much deeper than this. If you want to specify what graphic design is in its barest form, you can define it as visual communication. I think that this is the simplest definition you can make. Communicating with people through visual objects and media.

Typical tools used by graphic designer are pen and paper and software like ink, GIMP, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, 3D graphic software (3Ds Max, Maya, Cinema 4D, Blender, etc.), in case of digital ones. They often use devices like tablets to be able to work in computer like with pen and paper. The basic things to learn for graphic designer are typography, layouts, grid systems and printmaking. If you are interested in graphic design, you have plenty of opportunities and doors opened. You can work in areas like industry design, print design, web design, product design, package design, branding, marketing and more.

Web Design

Next to talk about is web design. In this part I will not distinguish between web design and front-end / back-end. That would only cause more problems to people not involved in this particular industry. So, we will discuss web designer as all of these things put together – code and visual design. If you had the power to look into people’s minds how would web designer looked like? Common idea of web designer would probably be something like a guy sitting in front of computer doing some voodoo stuff with code to create websites. Some people might add earrings or tattoos and crazy haircut. Also, don’t forget the skinny jeans, hoodie and word “geek”. Biases sometimes looks very funny. If we disregard this crap what we get is description very similar to graphic designer.

Web design also include skills mentioned above (typography, layouts and grid systems). The only exception here is printmaking, which is not that useful for web designer. When we take a look at the tools of his or her, similarities will appear again. Many web designers are hand in hand with Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator and use them to create mockups for their projects (or ink and GIMP for open-source lovers). On the other hand, they create straight in code (in browser). These people (we) also use pen and paper and various devices to write down and sketch our ideas.

I want to make a short note about web developers here because developers works mostly only with code and have designer behind them to take care about the design part. The description above is more focused on front-end developers than.


After we described both of the fields, do you see the differences? Well, me neither. How do you want to compare two areas which use so many same tools and often even penetrate each other? What’s more, it is not such a rare situation to see people working in both fields, web and graphic design and doing great work. Instead of comparing these fields like separate areas we should think about them in terms of skills. Don’t believe people who tell you that you can be either web or graphic designer, but not both. You can. As well as you can learn English and Spanish, you can also learn both of these skills. The only thing to do is to invest your time and effort in learning.

If you still want to compare something, try to replace web design with web development. In this case, you will find much more differences and so it will be easier to distinguish between those areas.


What are the closing thought? I think that we have to differentiate between people who are devoted solely to graphic design and, on the other side of spectrum, people devoted to web design at first. When we do that, we will find out that there is a group of people remained on the side. These people are those who are able to do both, graphic and web design. Some of them might be jacks-of-all-trades with more skills than you have fingers (yes it is possible). Comparing graphic design to web design is, in time when these two penetrate so often, nonsense. Good web designer (front-end developer) must have many skills required by graphic design industry. Without them, he can only be good programmer.

Also, we shouldn’t forget that in web industry there are subcategories like front-end and back-end development. So, graphic vs web design is more like apples vs fruit salad instead of pears. What are your ideas and opinions on this topic?

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By Alex Devero

I'm Founder/CEO of DEVERO Corporation. Entrepreneur, designer, developer. My mission and MTP is to accelerate the development of humankind through technology.

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