Graphic Designer vs. Web Designer: Which One Should You Hire?

Are you in the market for a designer, but not sure whether to hire a graphic designer or web designer? These two roles can be similar, but there are key differences every hiring manager should know.

In this article, we’ll explore the key distinctions between a graphic designer vs. web designer, the skills they need, and their average salary, job outlook, and education requirements.

Let’s dive in.

What’s a Graphic Designer?

Most notably, graphic designers are storytellers. They work at the intersection of art and technology to create striking visual content using various design software and tools. Whether through digital assets or print media, their goal is to engage, captivate, inform, or inspire action in their audience in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and visually compatible with their message.

These creative professionals can design a variety of media. They work on things like logos, e-cards, event flyers, posters, billboards, product packaging, book covers, website visuals, advertisements, brochures, typography, general marketing material, and so on.

Despite their specialized skillset and wide range of design capabilities, graphic designers don’t have unlimited creative freedom. Their job is to gather information from customers, clients, or other stakeholders to develop designs based on their wants and specifications. Their day-to-day responsibilities can include things like studying design briefs, using InDesign, Illustrator, or other design tools, editing visuals based on stakeholder feedback, and receiving guidance from creative or art directors.

graphic designer working on a tablet

Where Do Graphic Designers Work?

Graphic designers can work almost anywhere! They can freelance from their home, work a standard full-time job, or both. Some common employers of graphic designers include:

  • Ad agencies, marketing firms, and design studios
  • Corporate companies and brands
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Or anywhere that needs skilled designers to tell their visual story

What’s a Web Designer?

A web designer creates—you guessed it—website design. They are responsible for the visual appearance of a website, webpage, or mobile app—which includes the layout, structure, navigation, interactive features, and other web-based elements.

For the most part, a web designer’s goal is to collaborate with web developers to create an attractive, friendly, and seamless user experience. For this reason, web designers must have a solid understanding of user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design principles.

The average web designer might spend their days:

  • Communicating with stakeholders about project specifications, timelines, and feedback
  • Creating design mockups, wireframes, and other prototypes
  • Curating a website’s color schemes and typography patterns
  • Conducting usability tests
  • Designing buttons, links, menus, and other controls
  • Ensuring websites and webpages adhere to accessibility and privacy standards

Where Do Web Designers Work?

Like graphic designers, web designers can work at a variety of places. Many are freelancers and work on their own time, but plenty of web designers work in a corporate or agency environment. Common employers of web designers include:

  • Tech consultancies
  • Design agencies
  • Software companies
  • Corporate companies
  • Or they can freelance!

Graphic Designer vs Web Designer: The Differences Explained

Graphic designers and web designers are both design professionals. Still, there are major differences between the roles. Let’s review:

Focus and Medium

Graphic designers primarily work on print-based content, though they may also work on digital projects such as social media graphics, email campaigns, and digital ads. Their focus is on curating visuals that are aesthetically appealing, communicate a message effectively, and reinforce a brand’s identity.

While there’s also a visual element to web design, these professionals are more concerned with the layout and function of a webpage—and they don’t work on any physical media. Instead, web designers focus on designing and developing websites that are optimized for the online environment.

Education and Required Skills

The hiring strategy for web and graphic design roles is often skills-based, not degree-based. Still, a formal degree is always a plus. Computer science, web design, and web development are all common degrees held by web designers, while graphic designers are more likely to hold art-based degrees.

In terms of skillset, there is some overlap between the roles. A web designer’s skillset, however, leans more on the technical side. UX and UI skills, Content Management Systems, basic design principles, front-end coding languages (HTML, CSS, JavaScript), SEO and digital marketing knowledge, and composition and typography are all common skills for web designers.

A graphic designer’s skillset is less technical. These creatives usually have the following skills: familiarity with Adobe’s creative suite (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator), general design principles, basic artistic capabilities, branding and marketing, portfolio management, and photography and typography.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to Glassdoor, graphic designers make an average base salary of $44,697. Of course, this can differ based on industry, location, education, experience level, and other factors. This is significantly lower than the average salary of a web designer, which is $64,100.

Along with higher salaries, current and perspective web designers are looking at a better job outlook, too. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the employment of web developers and digital designers will grow 23 percent between 2021 and 2031. Employment of graphic designers is projected to grow only 3 percent.

Hire a Designer

Both graphic designers and web designers work in design, but their focus and skillsets differ. If you’re looking to hire a designer, it’s essential to understand the differences between these two professions to choose the right one for your team.

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