Graphic Designers and Web Designers: the power duo with a difference

December 12, 2023

Graphic Designers and Web Designers: the power duo with a difference

Graphic designers and web designers share overlapping skills and similarities, but they are also distinctly different. The real power comes when they collaborate and communicate to create well-integrated, cohesive, appealing and effective digital experiences.
Regardless of why you’re interested in finding out more about the key differences between these two services, be it building a new business or revamping your online portfolio, knowing when a job calls for a graphic designer or a web designer can end up saving you time and money in the long run.

In our latest blog, we delve into the nuances of each designer’s role, whilst also exploring how graphic design and web design synergise to enhance your online presence.

Graphic design vs web design: What are they?

Whilst both web and graphic design calls for experience in executing a client’s creative vision, employing seamless visual design and creative thinking, each role has a set of specific skills that call for specialist training and expertise.

Despite bearing a few similarities on the surface; a graphic designer will have the skills necessary for creating designs for multiple channels and marketing materials.

Web design requires programming skills essential for creating websites that not only align with your brand’s design fundamentals but also guarantee optimal technical performance on the web and mobile devices.

While these roles are constantly evolving, let’s start with their ‘typical’ definitions.

What is a graphic designer?

We like this definition from Brainstation: Graphic designers are essentially visual communicators. They bring visual concepts to life, most commonly through graphic design software, and inform or engage consumers through text, graphics and images.

Graphic designers create visual content for a huge range of different print and digital channels, including publications, brochures, posters, advertising, packaging, signage and displays, and social media. Great graphic designers strive to help businesses and organisations achieve their goals – by influencing audience perceptions, decisions and behaviour.

What is a web designer?

Web designers, and sometimes web developers, focus specifically on the online environment: websites, interfaces, & online applications. They plan, shape and implement web designs that are not only visually appealing and well-branded but also highly functional, ensuring a smooth and easy user experience. A web designer’s job revolves around user interaction and navigation: working with elements like navigation menus, buttons, and forms.

Moreover, web designers use a variety of web building tools and technologies, such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), to create websites that not only encapsulate the brand’s identity but also load quickly. This aspect is crucial in ensuring a site is easily accessible and maintains consistent load times across different devices and browsers, ensuring they are both engaging and easy to navigate for the end user.

Graphic design vs web design: the similarities

The ultimate goal The ultimate goal

When it comes down to it, both graphic designers and web designers aim to connect, communicate, persuade and build trust. Whether it’s a printed image or a dynamic website, the aim is to craft visuals that not only attract but also retain the user’s attention. The essence of their work lies in not just meeting, but exceeding business objectives and fostering an ongoing relationship with the audience. From a captivating printed brochure to an interactive web page, both work to truly engage the target audience and achieve client objectives.

Design nous Design nous

They may design for different formats, but both need a deep understanding and strong skills when it comes to fundamental design principles – including composition, typography, and colour. No matter what the context, designers must know how to apply fonts, readability and visual hierarchy to create powerful communication. These designers harness creative ideas and technical skills, utilising industry standard tools like Adobe Illustrator, to create compelling layouts that adhere to brand guidelines, whether viewed on a screen or a printed page.

Brand consistency Brand consistency

Brand consistency is paramount for both a web or graphic designer. They focus on maintaining a cohesive brand identity across various mediums. This ensures that whether a customer interacts with a website or a printed material, they experience a consistent brand story and visual elements. This uniformity is crucial in building brand recognition and trust, making every design – from typography on a website to colour schemes in print – a reinforcing element of the brand’s identity.

Graphic design vs web design: the differences

Technical skills – and tools of the trade Technical skills – and tools of the trade

While it pays to be familiar with the tools and technical skills across both graphic and web design – and many of today’s creatives are – they each demand specific expertise. Graphic designers use a range of different software to bring their ideas to life, including the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite (Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator). They need proficiency in the principles of layout, typography and design across a huge range of different formats: publications (of all sizes), packaging (of all shapes), advertising and much more.

The website design process also involves software tools (like Adobe XD, Sketch and Figma). While developers also work on sites, web designers should be familiar with HTML (HyperText Markup Language, which handles the structure of a website), CSS (Cascading Style Sheets, which define the visual appearance), JavaScript (programming language that handles interactive components), content management systems and more. They also need a fundamental understanding of User Experience (UX) Design, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and web accessibility.

User interaction and experience User interaction and experience

While the digital landscape has expanded the role of graphic designers, it is traditionally a static medium. Key considerations are visual hierarchy and layout within a communication piece, like a poster or flyer.

On the other hand, web design is fundamentally interactive – with navigation menus, suggested next steps, call-to-action (CTA) buttons, surveys, sign-up prompts and much more. UX and User Interface (UI) Design principles centre on creating user-friendly websites that are easy to move through, to achieve the user’s goal. They bring together visuals, content, structure and navigation to create a rewarding, positive user experience – and eliminate frustrations. When done really well, UX design keeps people on a site longer, decreases bounce rates and gets results.

According to UXcam:

Websites and web applications have become progressively more complex as our industry’s technologies and methodologies advance. What used to be a one-way static medium has evolved into a very rich and interactive experience. But regardless of how much has changed in the production process, a website’s success still hinges on just one thing: how users perceive it. “Does this website give me value? Is it easy to use? Is it pleasant to use?” These are the questions that run through the minds of visitors as they interact with our products, and they form the basis of their decisions.

Changing it up

Traditionally, once a graphic design project is completed, it is done. While there may be replacements or new versions (like refreshed logos or new packaging), each individual design or project typically remains unchanged. However, for web design, constant change, flexibility and adaptability are essential. As part of responsive design, websites must adjust easily to different device types and screen sizes (desktop, tablet or phone). Fresh content drives high-quality traffic and is crucial for ongoing user engagement and SEO. Websites need continuous maintenance, so they are never “done”. They will continue to evolve as design and technology progresses, business needs change, and user preferences shift – whether through constant tweaks or complete revamps.

Do web designers and graphic designers work together?

Yes, all the time – especially during the process of creating or redesigning websites. Collaboration between the two roles is a winning combination, aligning all the crucial elements of the most successful websites: strategic, brand, visual, functional, user experience and SEO.

Graphic designers are often involved in shaping the visual concepts and branding elements underpinning a site. Throughout the process, they typically provide input on the design its brand alignment – and contribute specific ingredients like illustrations and iconography.

Open communication and collaboration between the two professionals only strengthen the end result: ensuring a strong identity across all channels, consistent messaging, and a powerful marriage of design and functionality. Or, as we say at Mariart: we help you connect, with a website that’s easy on the eye and easy to use.

At full-service agencies like ours, clients get it all under one roof. Every member of our team is an expert at what they do – including graphic design and web design – and we pull together every day to achieve amazing results. In fact, our website expertise spans the full gamut of strategy, design, development and content creation.

The Speak and Swallow website had to be simple, uncluttered and on-brand. Most importantly, it had to be incredibly easy for the audience to find exactly what they need: support, services and resources to help people with swallowing and communication difficulties.

Buttons for distinct audiences (adults, adolescents, carers), crystal clear CTAs (Book an appointment, Meet our speech therapists), an uncluttered design, smiling faces (team and patients) and a strong brand experience (that integrates with all other graphic design work) makes the website a powerful tool in helping the organisation to reach its goals.

At Mariart, we brought together the skills and insights of both our graphic design and web design specialists to make it happen: with a solution that translates beautifully across all platforms. We love creating websites that engage customers from the very first click – from premium aged care to architectural products and predictive talent technology.

An evolving landscape

There is no doubt the clear distinction is starting to blur. Today, many designers have skills in both areas, and graphic designers often work on creating more digital assets for web and email.

Both graphic designers and web designers need a keen and current understanding of ever-changing technology: from the latest web development tools and frameworks to the latest graphic design software. No matter what the project, all graphic designers must understand how visual work will translate to a digital, interactive environment.

And, whatever their specialist expertise, all designers need to understand the bigger picture – starting from brand and business strategy. That’s always the destination, even if there are different roads to get there.

Do you need a partner that has it all, including vast experience and well-honed specialist skills across both graphic design and web design?

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