Even though the responsibilities of the two occupations may appear similar at first glance, there are some significant differences between a graphic designer and a web designer. The focus of this article, then, will be on the general differences between a graphic designer and a web designer.
The Categorical Differences
The first telling difference between graphic designers and web designers is the category that each falls under with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics . Graphic design falls under the category of “Arts and Design.” Web design falls under the category of “Computer and Information Technology.” The categories show that graphic designers concern themselves mostly with the visual and artistic aspects of a project, while web designers concern themselves with the technical aspects of a project. This is not to say that graphic designers never use technology or that web designers rarely incorporate the graphic arts.
As mentioned, compared with web designers, graphic designers are much more involved in the artistic and (as obvious as it may seem) graphic side of a project. Graphic designers create images by hand and with technological aids. They are concerned with the presentation of a project. Graphic designers are often involved in advertising and promotion, making sure each project has the appropriate and desired look and feel. Those interested in graphic design, its employment outlook, and its earnings should consult the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even more detailed information can be found at O*NET, “the nation’s primary source of occupational information”. There are also at least two professional associations for graphic designers: the Graphic Artists Guild and the American Institute of Graphic Arts .
Depending on the organization, web designers have a few different titles, such as web developers. Compared with graphic designers, web designers are responsible for the technical, behind-the-scenes, computer-related aspects of a project. More specific, web designers almost always use computers and are often responsible for programming or writing code, such as HTML. Although often responsible for the “look” of a web page, web designers collaborate with graphic designers to determine artistic layout and effect. Web designers may work with a variety of clients to support needs for web sites and gaming applications, to name a few. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers up-to-date information on web developers. Even more detailed information can be found at O*NET . Those interested in benefiting from a professional association for web developers will want to investigate the World Association of Web Masters (WOW).
Interestingly, despite its less stringent entry-level educational requirement of an associate’s degree, web design has a higher median income ($62,500 per year) than graphic design, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Graphic design, with a more demanding entry-level educational requirement of a bachelor’s degree, has a significantly lower median income ($44,150 per year). Nevertheless, the occupational differences between a graphic designer and a web designer can be summed up in a general way: a graphic designer is primarily responsible for visual concepts; a web designer for technical, computer-related aspects.
For more information on a career in web design, please see “Is a Web Design Degree Worth It?“.