What is the Difference Between a Graphic Designer and Web Designer Anyway? - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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April 10, 2019

What is the Difference Between a Graphic Designer and Web Designer Anyway?

Although graphic designers and web designers have a lot in common, including the obvious passion for creating designs, the occupations are quite different. A quick way to differentiate from the get-go is noting that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes the occupation industries as such:

Graphic Designers: Arts and Design

Web Designers (or Developers): Computer and Information Technology

This tells you right away that graphic designers are typically focused on the visual, artistic aspects of a project while web designers are responsible for the technical, digital aspects. But graphic designers often use computer software to create their works, and web developers are very concerned with the aesthetic appeal of a website, so clearly there’s overlap. Confused? Let’s break it down.

What do graphic designers do?

Graphic designers, (also called graphic artists or communication designers), combine art and technology to create visual concepts that communicate ideas through images. They often sketch by hand on paper as well as use specialized computer software (Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW) to come up with ideas that inform, inspire and engage consumers.

Graphic designers develop the overall layout and production design for printed pages, such as advertisements, brochures, magazines and reports. They’re an integral part of public relations, sales and marketing teams. The focus on “messaging” means graphic designers are always mindful of what a particular design is communicating to the audience.

They also play a large part in determining the layout and look of websites, working with both text and images. They may select the font, colors and line lengths of the written copy on the site. Graphic designers turn complex statistical data into easy-to-understand visual graphics and diagrams to make the information more accessible to readers, as in infographic creation.

What do web designers do?

Also known as web developers, these designers create websites. They are responsible for the technical, computer-related aspects of a project. Web developers need to know how to design for different mediums, i.e., smartphone, tablet and laptop. Their role often includes:

  •      Programming or writing code, such as HTML, JavaScript or XML
  •      Integrating graphics, audio and video into the website
  •      Determining the artistic look and layout of the site, often in collaboration with graphic designers
  •      Monitoring the site’s performance and capacity, which are measures of a website’s speed and how much traffic it can handle
  •      Creating content for the site
  •      Creating and testing applications for the website

The BLS notes that while some developers handle all aspects of a website’s construction, others specialize in a certain aspect of it, such as back-end and front-end web developers and webmasters.

How do the occupations differ in pay and career growth?

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for graphic designers was $48,700 in May 2017. Web developers enjoyed a median annual wage of $67,990 during the same period.

Employment of graphic designers is projected to grow 4% from 2016 to 2026, slower than the average for all occupations. However, this projected change in employment varies by industry. For example, the BLS reports:

  •      Employment of graphic designers in newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishers is projected to decline 22% from 2016 to 2026.
  •      Employment of graphic designers in computer systems design and related services is projected to grow 20% over the same period.

 As companies continue to increase their digital presence and e-commerce continues to grow stronger every year, talented graphic designers will be needed to help create visually appealing and effective website layouts. “The work of graphic designers will continue to be important in marketing products throughout the economy,” notes the BLS, adding that competition for these available positions will be fierce. “Prospects will be best for applicants who keep up with the latest design trends, technologies, and techniques.”

Employment prospects are stronger for web developers, with a projected growth of 15% from 2016 to 2026. This is much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the BLS.

The expected continued growth of e-commerce is also good news for web developers, since online purchasing is expected to grow faster than the overall retail industry, explains the BLS. “As retail firms expand their online offerings, demand for web developers will grow. In addition, an increase in the use of mobile devices to search the web will lead to increased demand for web developers. Instead of designing a website for a desktop computer, developers will have to create sites that work on mobile devices with many different screen sizes, leading to more work.”

The BLS adds that web developers with knowledge of multiple programming languages and digital multimedia tools, such as Flash and Photoshop, will have the best job opportunities.

If you’d like to learn more about Communication Design professions that enable you to serve wholeheartedly and faithfully in your life’s work or want to learn more about a biblically based, Christ-centered education at Geneva, we’d love to chat with you. For more information on how Geneva College can help you pursue your education goals, please phone us at 855-979-5563 or email web@geneva.edu.