Web Design vs. Graphic Design: 5 Key Differences

Published 11 September, 2023 Updated 11 September, 2023

Although commonly mistaken for one another, graphic designers and web designers are responsible for different things when it comes to building a website. Here are the main differences.

Web Design vs. Graphic Design: 5 Key Differences

Web design and graphic design are two related yet distinct disciplines. While both are based on common design principles, the purposes and applications of web design vs. graphic design differ.

Whether you’re an aspiring designer or a business owner looking to establish a strong online presence, understanding the differences between graphic design and web design may help you determine your project needs or goals. 

So, let’s define the roles of graphic and web designers and figure out the key differences between them.

Key highlights

  • Graphic designers focus on aesthetics and use color palettes, typography and imagery to create visually appealing designs. In contrast, web designers work on technical aspects, such as usability and user interactions across devices.
  • While web designers collaborate closely with developers to bring their design concepts to life, graphic designers often work more independently, creating designs based on their individual skills and creativity.

What is web design and what does a web designer do?

Web design is the practice of designing websites. It encompasses the planning, creation and arrangement of various elements on different web pages to produce websites that facilitate desired actions. To achieve this, a web designer must grasp design fundamentals, such as principles of page layout, font layout, color palettes and imagery selection. 

Of course, the role of a web designer extends beyond visual theory. Web designers must ensure that websites look and function seamlessly on different devices. Also, they must establish intuitive, efficient and enjoyable user interactions with a website.

For this purpose, professional designers’ job responsibilities include user interface (UI) design, user experience (UX) design and responsive design. Web designers focus on search engine optimization (SEO) as well to ensure that the website’s design supports its accessibility via search engines.

Top 5 responsibilities of web designers

Here are some of the most common responsibilities a web designer has to take on. 

  • Design conceptualization: When a client communicates their vision, a web designer’s role involves translating that vision into tangible visual concepts. This concept development process requires a creative ability to form visual representations of abstract ideas that they or a team of web development engineers can transform into concrete and functional designs.
  • Wireframing and prototyping: Prior to the final stages of development, web designers work to create wireframes and prototypes of the website’s layout and functionality. By using web-building tools to create this blueprint, they can visualize the structure and flow of the site. This also enables them to gather feedback from clients and stakeholders before proceeding to development.
  • Responsive design implementation: Another responsibility of web designers is to ensure users have an enjoyable experience while browsing a website on a desktop, tablet or another mobile device. By implementing responsive design principles, their designs can adapt seamlessly to different screen sizes and devices.
  • Accessibility and usability optimization: Web designers must ensure a website is usable and enjoyable for all visitors, including those with disabilities. To ensure this, they use interactive elements like buttons, forms and animations to improve user experience. They also optimize color contrasts and provide alternative text for images to facilitate intuitive navigation for all users.
  • Collaboration and communication: Web designers may interact with multiple different people throughout the design process. First and foremost, they must work closely with clients to understand their needs and requirements. They might also need to collaborate with developers and other team members to ensure the final product meets the agreed-upon expectations. 

What is graphic design and what does a graphic designer do?

Web graphic design is the art of visual communication through graphical and textual elements. It is a highly creative process that revolves around strategically creating and arranging visual design elements to convey messages, emotions and concepts. 

Graphic design has diverse applications in both digital projects and print projects, making it a versatile visual art form that touches many disciplines. From corporate logos that embody a company’s ethos to captivating advertisements that evoke emotions, graphic design plays a pivotal role in shaping how information is perceived and remembered. 

Top 3 responsibilities of graphic designers

A graphic designer holds many responsibilities, but these are the top three.

  • Visual storytelling: A graphic designer is responsible for translating ideas into compelling visual narratives. Following visual design best practices, they arrange elements harmoniously, balancing visual hierarchy, whitespace and typography to create visual compositions that guide the viewer’s eye and communicate information effectively. 
  • Brand identity forging: An integral part of a graphic designer’s responsibility is creating logos, picking color schemes and balancing other visual elements to encapsulate a brand’s essence. As visual designers, they use their deep understanding of the visual arts and layout techniques to craft a unique identity for brands. 
  • Communication and collaboration: To ensure a successful design outcome, graphic designers must work with clients and other team members throughout the process of ideation, feedback and refinement. With effective communication skills, a graphic designer can create visual content that aligns with the client’s vision. 

Main web design vs. graphic design differences

Both web design and graphic design emphasize visual theory. However, these disciplines differ in several ways that shape their function and applications. Let’s explore the main differences that set these professions apart. 

Difference #1: Training & technical skills

Both graphic designers and web designers require professional skills and training to do their jobs successfully. However, while graphic design leans towards the art skill, web design is more technical.

Undeniably, both fields require a strong sense of design, but web design goes deeper into how users experience a website. In short, a web designer pays close attention to how users interact with the site. They carefully plan how users navigate the site to ensure everything feels intuitive and smooth. Additionally, they must ensure users can browse a website seamlessly on both mobile and stationary devices.

To achieve this, web designers must explore concepts in computer science, as well as master Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript. 

Meanwhile, graphic design typically focuses on using visuals to evoke feelings and convey messages. Commonly, graphic designers create graphics, logos and other digital assets using the Adobe Creative Suite, which consists of tools like Adobe Photoshop and InDesign.

Difference #2: Cooperation with web developers

The working relationship with a web development team is different for web designers and graphic designers. 

Web designers collaborate closely with developers when creating websites that look good and work well. They may even provide support for web application development. Once they’ve crafted the design concept, they hand it over to the development team responsible for turning their blueprint into real websites. 

On the other hand, most graphic designers work independently when creating graphics. This doesn’t mean they don’t communicate with developers or other stakeholders. They still work closely with others for a successful design outcome. However, their designs are due to their individual effort and skill. 

Difference #3: Creativity

Graphic design and web design both require immense creativity, but it is expressed differently in both disciplines. Graphic design focuses primarily on aesthetics, while using color palettes, typography and imagery to create eye-catching designs that resonate with the audience on a visceral level.

A web designer is also an art designer, in a sense, but web design is more technical as designers must consider how websites look on different devices and how people use them. This requires them to create responsive layouts, intuitive navigation and user-centric interfaces. They aim to ensure a website looks captivating and performs seamlessly across devices and platforms. 

Difference #4: Interactivity

Graphic design often involves careful consideration of layout, color, typography and visual hierarchy within a single composition. As such, graphic designers primarily deal with static visual elements to create print materials (e.g., brochures, posters, packaging), logos, branding and illustrations. You can view and appreciate the design’s aesthetics and interpretation but can’t typically engage with it beyond that. 

Web designs greatly differ in this aspect. People can interact with websites. They can click buttons, navigate menus, fill out forms and engage with various elements on the web page. This interactivity is a fundamental aspect of web design, making it inherently dynamic.

Difference #5: Web design vs. graphic design salary

Web design and graphic design are both in-demand skills, which means experienced professionals can find well-paying projects. According to salary.com, an experienced graphic designer’s annual salary in the US is around $120K. An experienced graphic designer can also earn around $120K annually in the US

Without a doubt, how much web designers and graphic designers earn depends on many different factors, including geographical location, experience, skill sets and employer. 

Free training for web and graphic designers

In conclusion, the work of web and graphic designers transcends mere aesthetics. On the most basic level, their work directly impacts website user engagement and overall brand image. 

Aspiring designers can gain the required skill set and master design tools to transform ideas into tangible, visual compositions through professional training and hands-on experience. This is what we focus on at WAcademy.

Our virtual internship program supports both budding web and graphic designers and small businesses seeking to build websites on a budget. How do we achieve both? It’s all very simple. 

We provide professional training for graphic and web designers to help them build web design portfolios and set them up on the right career path. To support them, we introduce them to WordPress, Adobe Illustrator, Sketch, Figma and other essential tools. 

Once our interns are trained, they start working on real-life projects. This is where small and medium enterprises (SMEs) come in. By trusting our interns, they are provided with 100% custom, mobile-friendly, fully-functional websites that can help attract and retain customers. The best part is – our web design services are completely free!

Our clients do not need to find web designers. The registration is quick, seamless and accessible. And our experienced project managers are there to lead SMEs every step of the way. Once the initial registration and application process is complete and a dedicated intern starts working on the project, we are committed to a 20-30 business day turnaround for the first draft. 

What’s our success rate? Our interns have designed over 30,000 websites already! If you want to join the successful SMEs who are already growing their businesses online, do not hesitate to register for your free web design!