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

What's interesting is that as of 2023, only 71% of businesses have a website and of that percentage, not all of them may be getting the traffic they could be getting if they had a better design or better graphics. There is often a misunderstanding when it comes to web design vs graphic design.

They are sometimes used interchangeably when there is a fine line that represents the difference between the two. While they are different, they are also complementary to each other, and in some ways, you can't have a 'complete' web design without good graphic design.

However, solutions for design on the web are obviously a digital approach, and when working with graphics, you aren't restricted to just digital applications. Understanding the difference between the two, what both practices can offer, and how you can leverage them in your business will make it simpler to identify which one you need most (if not both).

Keep reading to form an understanding of these two forms of design, what makes them different, and what makes them complement each other so well.

Web Design vs Graphic Design

When considering web design vs graphic design, there are some strong similarities between the two. Both disciplines involve combining the use of typography, iconography, and graphs to better communicate thoughts and ideas through design.

Both disciplines also involve creating graphics and using images to form designs but the main difference is that web design does not involve 'print'. Graphic design features design practices in both print and digital spaces while a web designer will focus on creating websites that have to be responsive on multiple 'digital' devices.

A web designer has to achieve both aesthetically pleasing designs and a functional product. A graphic designer on the other hand is more focused on the branding and design composition of the process. They do go hand-in-hand in a lot of cases as graphic design services offer complimentary practices to web design needs.

This could be in the form of UX (user experience) design which is one of the various components of the practice, on-page animation, and engaging consumers from a UI (user interface) standpoint. All of this can leverage web design and is one of the reasons why professional teams opt to work in conjunction with both a web designer and a graphic designer.

Take a Look at Their Job Functions

The best way to think about the difference between the two is to look at the main differences between their job functions.

A Day as a Web Designer

Web designers will know about visual design, user expectations, and branding guidelines like a graphic designer would. One of the key differences that you will see is in their technical training and list of skills.

For example, when creating websites, the designer will know HTML, CSS, or other programming languages that will help them complete projects. These skills are not something required of graphic designers.

Web designers and developers are known for having technical expertise in this space. When it comes to graphics, designers often have a basic logistical knowledge of what a web designer does and how they do it. However, their duties will specifically differ in that with web design, print design doesn't follow and coding experience is often needed.

  • User-to-customer conversion
  • Coding and non-coding website building
  • Website testing
  • Providing website support
  • Building landing pages
  • Designing based on functionality, responsiveness, and optimization

A Day as a Graphic Designer

A graphic designer will have certain soft skills that align with a web designer. However, their day-to-day functions will differ greatly based on the project. There will be some overlap in the design process between the two such as having an understanding of UX design best practices and an understanding of brand guidelines.

However, a graphic designer might have more focus on UI design whereas with web design, UX would be the stronger focus. This won't always be the case and there are some graphic designers that have website design as a secondary skill but this is how their duties will be separated based on the capacity they are working in.

  • Consumer education through branding and printed material
  • Logo and branding design
  • Advertising practices
  • Social media graphic creation
  • Using RGB and CMYK knowledge
  • Video and photo editing

Additionally, keep in mind the primary difference between web and graphic design services...website design doesn't involve 'print' design but graphic design does. Also, graphic designers don't design functional websites from scratch although this is entirely possible if they possess the skill.

Can a Web Designer Do Graphic Design and Vice Versa?

In a lot of cases, web designers have graphic design as a secondary skill. The same applies to those who primarily specialize in graphic design. It's not necessary for one of these professionals to know the processes of the other to succeed.

However, in both of these disciplines, there will be a basic understanding of the other. For example, web design isn't only about web design as a standalone focus area. Website design is made of multiple disciplines and graphic design is one of them.

Graphic design is an integral part of the success of a website. This is one of the top reasons that companies look for multi-functional graphic design services to help them reach their business goals faster.

The skills of both of these disciplines aren't necessarily interchangeable. What you have to realize is that there are different types of training for both but both roles still support each other. Consider that graphic designers don't need to know how to code.

However, a lot of these designers still possess an understanding of CSS, HTML, and JavaScript fundamentals. Just as a web designer doesn't have to make logos and branding formations from scratch, they are still a subset of 'visual designers'.

In the simplest terms, a web designer, in some cases, could handle graphic design duties. This is the same for graphic designers and website creation although their skills may be limited to drag-and-drop platforms unless they have a strong web design skillset.

How to Know Which Form of Design You Need

Determining whether you would benefit from working with a graphic or web designer is simple. First, do you need help with a print or digital project? If you need assistance with print-based work, you need a graphic designer.

Graphic design is a great specialty for developing quality print ads and marketing materials. These designers can also help with newsletter creation, template design, and images for social media.

If you need help with digital projects, you will need a web designer or, you would benefit from working with both. Graphic design is less of an interactive discipline and uses more artistic skills. Web designers are going to be your go-to for technical and functional work.

If you need a website built, the answer might be obvious...you need a web designer. For a lot of projects, it's not always this simple. Working in conjunction with both of these professionals is likely going to streamline your project and increase your ROI.

Both professionals are going to save you time, and money, and reduce the chance of making mistakes. They will both also attract more customers for your brand, and help to strengthen your brand.

The difference is that a graphic designer will give your brand a voice and an identity. The web designer will provide that voice and identity with a strong platform and source of support.

The only time where you will need one over the other is if print design will be involved. More often than not, it would be more useful to work with both or, with someone who possesses both skill sets on an 'advanced' level.

Website Design and Its Benefits

There are various drag-and-drop website-building tools on the market today. While this will give you simplicity and efficiency, that may not always be the case in the long run. Working with a web designer allows you to tap into customization.

This isn't always a feature you will get with drag-and-drop builders. You will notice that the look of your site may seem more professional and that it's faster. Web designers often make multi-device functionality easier to achieve as well.

Keep in mind that 53% of mobile users alone, completely abandon sites that take longer than three seconds to load. If you take the DIY approach to your site, you aren't likely to notice any lag time on your site unless you know to check for that. Professional website design services help to cover all of these bases.

A few other notable benefits of professional web design are:

  • Higher potential traffic
  • Actual customer support
  • Seamless changes to your website
  • Better reliability
  • Mobile-first designs (55% of web traffic comes from mobile devices)

Using a web designer is about a lot more than getting professional design solutions. It's about tapping into leading market trends and practices. Web designers are often up to date on the best design methods. Small insider tips like this could set you far ahead of both your direct and indirect competitors.

Recognizing the Advantages That Graphic Design Brings to the Table

Hiring a graphic designer is going to give you access to what you need to elevate your brand. This could be creating more successful and impactful marketing tools or doing better with graphic communication, especially for companies in competitive cities. Graphic designers just like web designers will save you time and money as well.

They can even help to increase productivity within your team considering they specialize in offline design. This means that they can take over the design of not only your marketing materials but also your company paraphernalia. You can also look forward to a few other advantages such as:

  • Higher quality visuals
  • An increase in consumer interaction with your designs
  • More team involvement and higher morale
  • A reinforcement for your company's professionalism

Graphic designers can benefit businesses in a variety of ways. They can help to better structure presentations and increase the communication of your visuals.

Overall, the most important benefit they offer is that they provide a significant boost to your company's credibility. Consumers are more likely to repeat the business they give you if they have high trust in your company.

Additionally, a graphic designer will give you more power to be persuasive in your market. This means that you will gain more opportunities to center your brand as a top industry provider or your company as a hub of subject matter experts in your focus areas.

How These Two Disciplines Working Together Is Possible

Keep in mind that in many cases, these two design disciplines complement each other. With graphic design, it supports web development. It does this by bringing together design elements on web pages and turning them into cohesive elements of storytelling for your brand.

They both support the user experience while users visit your site as well. They also play an integral part in what the user sees and can do as soon as they land on your landing page.

Overall, between the two, they achieve engaging imagery, seamless design transitions, and a functional product. While some projects only require working with one of these professionals, it's beneficial to have both of their skill arsenals on retainer as needed.

The Power Is in the Design

When it comes to web design vs graphic design, sometimes you need both to achieve the end result you want. If you have print-based projects, you need to work with a graphic designer. If you have web-based projects, you should work with a web designer.

However, don't forget that both of these professionals offer great assistance in the digital space. Businesses often overlook the importance of 'good' design and this is a costly mistake. To see the difference impactful design can make for your company, get in touch with the Cumberland Marketing team to see the impact firsthand.