You’re probably thinking, “Can there really be an entire blog devoted to the differences between a graphic artist and graphic designer?”
You may not realize there is any difference, but there is. The purpose of this blog is to help explain what they are.
As a designer who has worked as both a graphic artist and a graphic designer, I understand the confusion. After all, graphic artists and graphic designers do have the following things in common:
- Both rely on visuals to execute their work
- Both work in digital and print formats
- And, of course, both start with the word “graphic.”
The roles of graphic artist and graphic designer actually have different objectives. Based on my experience and knowledge, I will break down the differences.
The sole intent of a graphic artist is to create visuals that facilitate an idea or story. Sometimes there is no logic to the creation of the designs, and in other instances, the visuals are the platform for an entire story.
Above all, there is no limit to the kind or amount of mediums a graphic artist can use.
The design principles are not strict, but that doesn’t mean they should be disregarded. (For a refresher on the basic design elements and principles reference my blog, (“Construct, Compose, Create; A Basic Guide to Graphic Design”.) Consequently, graphic artists tend to bend or break some of the design rules, but only if it fits the composition or story being told.
To better understand what a graphic artist might do, it may help to identify the kinds of work they produce. A graphic artist’s portfolio might include:
- Graphic Novels
- Comic Books
- Movie Illustrations
WHO MAKES A GRAPHIC ARTIST?
The common denominator between all of these pieces is that they are more artistically inclined. A graphic artist’s work can cover a wide range of subject matters, from inanimate objects to human beings, and everything in between.
Each piece does not follow a uniform set of rules. The styling is limited to that particular piece of artwork. If the graphic artist’s intent is to tell a story, the visuals come first and the story second. Depending on the story, visuals are influenced by dynamic action, dialogue, or stylizing within the composition.
GRAPHIC ARTIST OBJECTIVE
Here’s an interpretation of how a graphic artist could be shown through humanistic qualities:
The main objective of a graphic artist is to entertain the viewer. The appearance of the subject may or may not have a correlation to a story. The main focus is the art, which reflects in their styling. The subject matter tends to be more natural and artistic. For this particular example, the subject matter is a human with natural and utilitarian elements. The hair stylizing is natural, and the clothing is purely for its utility. There is no other underlying message.
You will see Graphic artists’ work in a print or digital format. It depends on the purpose of the design. Their work is created by hand or on a computer, and the artwork they produce often works in both print and digital format.
In contrast, the graphic designer’s main intention is to get the viewer to interact with the content within the design. With interactivity, the viewer can read, scroll, or click through the content being displayed. In the world of graphic design, content is king, and the purpose of the design is to help optimize concise information while providing a visual platform.
To better understand what a graphic designer might do, you should be able to identify the kinds of work they produce. A graphic designer’s portfolio might include:
- Marketing Collateral
- Print Design
- Digital Design
- Web Design
- Instructional Design
- Presentation Design
- Logo Design
WHO MAKES A GRAPHIC DESIGNER
Certainly the common denominator for all of these pieces is that they serve as platforms for content that can be used in various forms of media. A prime example of graphic design is marketing collateral for a company. The company will want a consistent design throughout all of their marketing materials (i.e., brochures, flyers, business cards, advertisements, websites, etc.) across all mediums.
GRAPHIC DESIGNER OBJECTIVE
Here’s an interpretation of how a graphic designer could be shown through humanistic qualities:
The main objective of a graphic designer is to deliver the content in an eye-catching manner. The composition and how the design interacts with depends on the content being displayed. The shirt has a graphic element, but with complementary colors: blue and yellow. The shirt also has a design, but it is balanced because of its symmetrical composition. Color and balance are two elements of design.
Remember graphic design relies on the composition of the content, and the graphic design elements and principles are essential in laying out a composition.
- Graphic designers must follow strict guidelines due to the parameters of the content and medium (i.e., brochure, website, poster, etc.), but graphic artists have more relaxed guidelines due to the unlimited possibilities for ideas and stories.
- For graphic designers, content is of the utmost importance. The designer cannot create visuals without understanding the content it will facilitate.
- For graphic artists, the visual possibilities are endless. The design depends on an abstract thought, and it is impossible to set guidelines.
The main difference between a graphic designer or graphic artist is the importance of the imagery within the work. A graphic designer’s main intention is to facilitate content, and a graphic artist’s main intention is to facilitate an idea or story. They both involve visuals and can be in various forms of media, and both are essential because they facilitate different needs in the visual realm.
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