Updated December 2023
Digital designers and graphic designers are alike in many ways. Both produce visual images that communicate a message and meet a business objective. Both are paid to increase brand awareness and inspire consumers to action.
So what’s the difference between them?
It basically comes down to this: Graphic designers tend to focus on static images, while digital designers create graphics that incorporate motion and interactivity.
They must each consider different factors, but they rely on many of the same design fundamentals.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of how digital designers and graphic designers compare.
DIGITAL DESIGNERS VS. GRAPHIC DESIGNERS: WHAT THEY PRODUCE
Both types of designers use symbols and imagery to transmit information and evoke emotions. But they do it in slightly different ways.
Digital designers create elements that will appear on a screen.
Their designs involve movement and may incorporate audio or sound effects. Such designs are often meant to be used, not just viewed.
Digital designers produce things like:
- Banner ads
- Landing pages
- Website wireframes and mockups
- Videos and animations
- Email templates
- Interactive elements for websites, mobile apps, video games, social media, etc.
Graphic designers produce static designs, traditionally for printed material and other physical items. However, they also develop static designs for digital platforms (such as a PDF version of a printed brochure).
Graphic designers create things like:
- Logos and brand identities
- Brochures and flyers
- Posters, signs, and billboards
- Magazines and newspapers
- Book and album covers
- Business cards and letterhead
- Corporate reports
- Product packaging
Note: Many companies want designers who can work in both the print and digital realms. Quality graphic design courses include training in both areas.
DIGITAL DESIGNERS VS. GRAPHIC DESIGNERS: DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
Because static and interactive images have different purposes, graphic designers and digital designers must take different factors into account.
Digital designers must think about:
- Responsiveness—How will the design look on different browsers and screen sizes?
- Interactivity—How will the viewer interact with the design?
- File size and page load times—You need to make sure images have enough pixels per inch (PPI) to look good but not so many that the page takes too long to load.
- Analytics—You can gauge the effectiveness of a digital design by looking at the number of views, likes, shares, and downloads (and you can continually make changes to see what works better.)
Graphic designers who focus on printed products must consider things like:
- Resolution—An image needs to have at least 300 dots per inch (DPI) to print clearly.
- Printing bleeds—You need to account for the extra area around the edges that will be trimmed off.
- The texture and weight of the material—Will the final design appear on paper, plastic, canvas, cardboard, or something else?
- Permanence—Proofing must be done carefully, because no further changes can be made once it goes to the printer.
DIGITAL DESIGNERS VS. GRAPHIC DESIGNERS: CAREER PATHS
Graphic design training typically includes digital design courses and prepares graduates for a wide range of career paths.
Digital designers can pursue roles as:
- Web designers
- UX/UI designers
- Game art designers
And print-focused graphic designers can find opportunities in many different sectors, including:
- Advertising and marketing
- Film and television production (i.e. designing period-specific set pieces like newspapers, scrolls, stamps, and banknotes)
- Product packaging
For instance, Herzing graphic design graduate Vince Arnone established a successful career designing hockey pads, helmets, and other equipment.
Another Herzing graduate, Den DeBlois, is the Senior Graphics Coordinator for a company that manages civil infrastructure projects throughout the world. He creates newsletters, logos, and branding materials, among other things.
Den says there are far more opportunities in this field than most people realize.“There’s a misconception that working in graphic design means that you’ll only find work at an advertising company or a design company. We live in a visual world, and most corporations have their own in-house graphic design teams.”
DIGITAL DESIGNERS VS. GRAPHIC DESIGNERS: CAREER OUTLOOK
Digital designers and graphic designers are so closely related that the Government of Canada Job Bank puts them in the same category.
The Job Bank expects steady demand for graphic designers throughout most of the country. Those with digital media skills—especially in areas like social media marketing, game design, and UX/UI—should have the brightest prospects.
Herzing instructor Miguel Suarez says it’s an excellent time to get into the field.
“Demand for classical art skills is on the rise. Plus, new jobs are emerging in app development, UI/UX, and motion graphics, video, and animation content creation. There has also been an increase in augmented reality, and changes to how movies are created. It is truly an exciting time!”
GET TRAINING IN DIGITAL AND GRAPHIC DESIGN
Herzing College offers a graphic design program that can help you get job-ready in just 10 months.
Courses cover colour theory, layout, typography, print production, web design, animation, and more. You’ll get thorough training in current design software and assemble a professional portfolio of both print and digital work.
Plus, you’ll gain real work experience through an included six-week internship.
Click below to explore the program and chat live with an admissions advisor. We’re here to help!