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If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between web design vs graphic design is — or if there even is one — I understand why. There’s seemingly a lot of overlap in what a graphic designer vs web designer does. However, there is some nuance to these roles, and learning the difference between web design and graphic design can help you better understand who you’ll need to hire to achieve your goals. Plus, having a clear understanding of web design vs graphic design can help you set more realistic expectations of what to expect from each. 

web design vs graphic design: image shows a hand holding a puzzle piece holding it up to a laptop with gears on the screen

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I’m here to help you learn the difference between web design vs graphic design. I’ll give you individual definitions of each first. Then, we’ll dive into the similarities between the two. Once we’re clear on that, I’ll walk you through the difference between web design and graphic design. Finally, we’ll dig into what differentiates a graphic designer vs web designer — and how to decide which you should hire. 

What is web design? 

At its core, web design refers to the process of ideating, laying out, and, in some cases, creating the visual elements of a site. There’s also the user experience element in web design, as web designers are tasked with ensuring that the site doesn’t only look great, but functions seamlessly, too. In my experience, your web designer must have UX experience. If they don’t, you risk finding out your website looks beautiful but isn’t functional in the slightest. And that’s a problem. 

Typically, when we talk about website design, we’re not referring to the software development portion, but instead, the work that designers put in to make the site look aesthetically appealing and functional for visitors. Web designers do crucial work because, without them, your site wouldn’t attract visitors. Furthermore, web designers are trained in what makes an appealing and easy-to-use user interface (UI), so they’re well aware of how to craft a site that will feel intuitive for visitors to access. 

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Ultimately, the task of web design constitutes large decisions that impact the overarching feel and function of the site, as well as smaller decisions, such as navigation menu design. Because how successful your web designers are can impact how successful your website as a whole is, hiring a team you’re confident will deliver outstanding work is an absolute must. (Psst: If you’re wondering how web designers are using AI, I’ve got you covered.) 

What is graphic design? 

Graphic designers convey concepts through a combination of text and visual elements. Ultimately, the purpose of this is to tell a story. And that’s what graphic design does: It tells a story. 

Graphic designers can make content for the digital realm, such as a website, but it’s not a requirement. For instance, a graphic designer could also be tasked with developing visuals for a print magazine article. That’s not to say graphic designers only create for print — we have graphic designers here at HubSpot that make digital content all the time. 

As a graphic designer, your job is to convey the story your company wants to tell as seamlessly as possible — all while making it visually compelling. Because of this, being a graphic designer requires a robust comprehension of typography, color theory, visual hierarchy, and beyond. 

Are there similarities between web design vs graphic design? 

Hopefully, those definitions provide additional insight into what web design vs graphic design constitute individually. If you’re still unclear whether or not there are any similarities between web and graphic design, that’s okay! I’m here to help you get a better understanding of this. 

There’s only one real similarity between graphic and web design, and that would be that web designers and graphic designers are both creative roles that are concerned with presenting the viewer with an appealing, easy to digest visual asset. That being said, that’s really where the similarities end and the differences begin. 

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What’s the difference between web design and graphic design? 

There’s not just one difference between web design and graphic design — there are many. As you’ll see, there are more differences than there are similarities. Really, the way that I’d describe the difference between web design and graphic design is that web design is concerned with the way things function, whereas graphic design is concerned with the way things look. Here’s what I mean by that. 

Graphic design isn’t interactive like website design is. 

Graphic design is static, or non-interactive. Because of that, being successful at graphic design requires a different skill set than web design. The reason for this is because web designers have to build something that users will have to interact with. Graphic designers don’t — they need to make a visual asset that’s digestible and understandable, but interactivity doesn’t matter. To summarize, graphic designers aren’t concerned with user interface or the user experience, but web designers are. 

Different tools are necessary for graphic and website design. 

Because of this, graphic and web designers do not use the same tools. Some commonly used tools by graphic designers include Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign. On the contrary, this software isn’t nearly as helpful for web designers, who typically have a pretty solid understanding of HTML, CSS, and in some cases, JavaScript. Web designers may use Figma, Adobe Dreamweaver, or other tools that enable them to get the job done. 

Graphic designers don’t typically work with the web development team. 

Unlike web designers, who work intimately with the web development team, graphic designers don’t always have any relationship with developers, even if they’re working on the same project. Whereas web designers collaborate with developers to understand the technicalities of the website they’re designing, graphic designers, in many cases, have less of a need to collaborate with this team.

That’s not to say that graphic designers are on their own island, because that’s not necessarily true, either. They may have to work with their company’s advertising department to develop ads, or collaborate with other marketers to discuss a business rebrand and the implications of that on visual assets developed. 

A web designer’s job isn’t done when the website goes live, whereas a graphic designer’s typically does when the visual asset is complete. 

Web design is so dynamic — which means that as a web designer, you may have to revisit the project at a later date. (Think: When you get feedback from testing that a feature isn’t as intuitive as you thought, or if your company decides to rework the site in the coming years.) On the contrary, graphic designers don’t have the ability to revisit their work in the same way, as the visuals they create are typically static. 

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Graphic Designer vs Web Designer: Which should you hire? 

As you can tell, comparing a graphic designer vs web designer, there’s no real overlap in these roles besides the fact that individuals in these positions are creative people who are tasked with developing visual assets. As a result, it’s not really a question of whether you should hire a graphic designer vs web designer — more than likely, if you’re just beginning to build your business, you’ll require the services of both of them. Here are some examples of when you should work with a graphic designer vs web designer. 

  • Work with a web designer if you’re building out a new website, or app. 

  • Work with a web designer if your company is rebranding and you’re completing a website refresh. 

  • Work with a web designer if you want insight into how to make your website more navigable for users. 

  • Work with a web designer if you want to rework your navigation menu so it’s more intuitive. 

  • Work with a web designer if you want to make sure your website’s layout is easy-to-digest. 

  • Work with a web designer if you have a website, but you feel like it’s falling flat, from a design standpoint.

  • Work with a web designer if you’re unsure your current site aligns with your brand’s creative vision. 

On the contrary, here are some situations where you’d be better off working with a graphic designer. 

  • Work with a graphic designer to build an Instagram ad visual for a new product you’re launching. 

  • Work with a graphic designer to create a new logo for your brand. 

  • Work with a graphic designer to make a print mailer you’ll send to your customers. 

  • Work with a graphic designer to create an infographic for a blog post. 

  • Work with a graphic designer to create a feature image for a landing page for your website. 

Remember how I mentioned earlier that graphic design is concerned with how things look and web design is concerned with how things function? These examples hopefully give you a better understanding of what I mean by that. 

Web Design vs Graphic Design: More Differences than Similarities 

As you now know, when comparing web design vs graphic design, there are more similarities than there are differences. Graphic designers and web designers both play an essential role, but that role is more dissimilar than it is alike. 

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