7 ways web design is different than graphic design

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Web and graphic design have lots in common, but here are seven things that set them apart.


On the Venn diagram of creativity, web and graphic design share a few similarities. Both require a good understanding of typography, graphics, and the principles of design. But in the end, web and graphic design are different pursuits with different areas of expertise.

1. Web design is a dynamic medium

Print is a physical medium where the user experience tends to be linear.

Comparing web design and graphic design is like comparing an iPad to a painting. Both display beautiful visuals, but one is interactive and the other will get you a security escort to the door if you touch it.

Graphic design has its origins in print. Whether it’s a magazine layout or a children’s book, printed materials tend to be less interactive than their digital counterparts. But they still depend on an artistic assembly of images, text, and other graphics to tell a story or communicate a message. There needs to be flow and logic to navigating printed material.

Web design shares these same roots, but the focus on the web is how artistry can create experiences people can interact with — participate in — rather than simply consume. A web designer may work with a graphic designer for visual elements like illustrations and iconography, but a web designer will then fit all these pieces together to create something interactive and usable.

And a website will have different paths users can take — web designers need to make sure users have a good experience and can achieve their goals. They understand how navigational elements, call to action buttons, and other interactive elements guide, influence, and enhance a user’s journey.

Graphic designers have much of the same skill sets as web designers. They both know typography, color palettes, and the rules of composition and layouts. But good web designers pay attention to how these elements affect online interactivity and usability.

2. Web designers are concerned with load times and file sizes

‍Pixar could have filled their landing page with award-winning animation, but they keep it minimal for a quick load time.

It’s not the boogeyman that keeps web designers awake at night — monstrous file sizes are what haunt them.

Web designers are all about optimization. The images, animations, and other graphic elements should look good and be small enough to load quickly on all devices. Long load times result in a bad user experience and high bounce rates.

The only time graphic designers might care about file size is when they’re trying to to fit that huge promotional banner into the back of their compact car.

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