Graphic designers versus web designers: Learn how these roles differ so you can hire the right type of professional for your digital project.
Design is a critical component of success in digital projects. But in a “graphic designer versus web designer” face-off, which design professional wins? Here’s the short answer: neither! Both have their place.
The simplest way to differentiate between the two roles is that graphic design focuses more on art, while web design is more concerned with technology. But since graphic designers often design with the help of computer software, and web designers use programming to achieve an aesthetic result, it’s easy to understand why there’s confusion.
How are these roles different, and where do they overlap? We’ll break down the key differences between graphic and web design so you can get on the path to hiring the perfect fit for your next digital project.
What is web design? ✨
Web design encompasses the visual and technical aspects of creating and maintaining a website’s look, feel, and performance. Think of a web designer as a digital conductor, creating harmony between the many elements required for a website to look good and operate smoothly.
A web designer’s primary responsibilities include the following:
- Aesthetics. Conceptualizing and creating website layout, typography, and color scheme, including wireframing.
- Performance. Ensuring websites load quickly and run smoothly across various devices, including desktop computers, smartphones, and tablets.
- Maintenance. Monitoring and maintaining websites after launch, including performing updates as needed.
- User experience (UX). Crafting a seamless and intuitive user experience so website visitors can easily find what they’re looking for.
- Search engine optimization (SEO). Optimizing websites to appear higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
- Code standardization. Developing standardized coding practices to ensure websites are scalable as time passes.
What is graphic design? 🖌️
Have you ever looked at a beautifully designed poster, logo, or brochure and wondered how it came to be? Chances are, a graphic designer created it. Graphic design uses elements like visuals and typography to communicate ideas, often for branding and marketing.
Like web designers, graphic designers are visual storytellers, but their responsibilities are different:
- Visual communication. Effectively communicating ideas through compelling design, utilizing color theory, layout, and more.
- Social media. Creating branded graphics for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and other networks.
- Branding. Conceptualizing, creating, and maintaining a brand’s visual identity. This includes everything from logos to business cards and marketing materials.
- Print design. Conceptualizing and creating visually appealing printed materials like flyers and posters to convey messages.
The differences between web and graphic design 🎨
Individuals working in these creative roles have different skills, use different programs, and operate with different restrictions. Here’s how it breaks down:
Technical skills 🧑💻
Web design is flexible, adaptable, interactive, and shifts according to the website’s and client’s needs. Graphic design typically results in a permanent piece of art, such as a logo, that remains unchanged. While websites can continuously be updated and upgraded, the pieces delivered by graphic designers often can’t be.
User interaction 🤼
Web design is interactive — users engage with the design and navigate the website, having a personal experience — while graphic design assets are often static. Users don’t interact with items like flyers, posters, or even social media background images like they do with web pages.
Typography restrictions ⛔
Web designers face typography limitations that graphic designers don’t. This is because web design requires web-safe fonts. Some devices also have compatibility issues; for example, there may be complications when a user’s browser doesn’t recognize a design’s typeface in their CSS. Graphic designers can use any typography in their designs as long as the font is downloaded and supported by the design program.
File size requirements ⛰️
Creating graphics for the web means considering file size requirements, as these images often have size and pixel guidelines. On the other hand, creating graphics for offline display often requires more pixels to prevent the graphics from degrading or distorting. Web designers work within the technical constraints of loading time and file size, which affect a website’s function. Graphic designers don’t generally need to worry about this.
Relationship status 📧
Web design isn’t a one-and-done deal. Unlike graphic design, which is usually finished once the final artwork is published, web design requires continuous maintenance, including content and feature updates, to keep it running smoothly. It’s much easier to make quick changes to a website than a published graphic design — the latter can be quite costly!
Web and graphic designers earn different wages, but in some cases, the disparity isn’t large. According to GlassDoor, the estimated total pay for a web designer in the United States is roughly $64,000 per year, while the estimated annual salary for a graphic designer is closer to $53,000. Pay may vary according to the designer’s work experience and education. Contra’s Discover page features thousands of freelance designers, most of whom charge between $25 and $100 — there’s a designer for every budget!
Do graphic and web designers collaborate? 🔑
Graphic and web designers often collaborate closely on projects of all shapes and sizes. Graphic design plays a fundamental role in web design, visually communicating the brand’s ideas and stories on its website. This boosts brand awareness and enhances the user experience, often making it more memorable.
When graphic and web designers partner, constant communication is vital. Throughout the creative process, they must keep the audience in mind and work together to achieve captivating visuals and a seamless and intuitive user experience. When graphic and web designers align harmoniously at every step, the result is a finished product that exceeds expectations!
Ready to hire a designer? 📁
Web and graphic design require a keen eye, but what if you don’t have those skills? Contra’s got your back. Specialization and teamwork in the workplace are key. Our platform is the ideal independent marketplace to find and hire design freelancers for your project, along with best practices to help you get started. We represent an incredibly diverse range of freelance web and graphic designers, and our commission-free platform ensures Independents get paid while clients get high-quality products and services.
Hiring a designer to create websites, templates, logos, flyers, and more is a great way to achieve your goals, enhance your brand, and forge lasting relationships to inspire your business — you can even send Independents a bonus! We work with you to find the best Independents for your short- or long-term project needs, for free and for real. We’ll match you with the designers best suited to your opportunity because the future of work is independent.