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Career Advice

Graphic Designer vs Visual Designer

What is the difference between a graphic designer and a visual designer? At first glance, it may seem that these terms are interchangeable, but this isn't always the case. Both roles are responsible for designing advertising elements however a visual designer works exclusively on digital media - websites, apps, etc.

Here at UCD Professional Academy, we offer a world-class learning experience with industry experts in graphic design. In this article, we’ll be explaining what the difference is between these two roles.

What is a graphic designer?

Graphic design is a field that incorporates graphic arts and technology to communicate information, visual messages, and ideas. It can be defined as the art of planning and producing materials for communication using visual elements. The term "graphic design" may also be used to refer to an entire field of study or activity (e.g., graphic design education), but it generally refers to the process of communicating visually.

There are a plethora of graphic design styles and techniques that designers have at their disposal. Graphic designers use typography, photography, illustration, and page layout techniques to create visual concepts, which they then combine with colour theory and space to create effective visual communications. They can use a variety of media in their work, including print design (magazines and newspapers), advertising (billboards and street posters), editorial design (books), packaging design (CD covers and book covers) and user interface design for websites and software applications.

Responsibilities of a graphic designer

  • Create designs based on client needs.

  • Work with clients to understand their objectives for the project.

  • Provide recommendations on design concepts and ideas that can help meet those objectives.

  • Use software programs to create mock-ups (computer-generated images) of designs before they're printed or published online.

  • Review mock-ups with clients to ensure they meet their expectations before proceeding.

  • Has an eye for design and translates concepts into visually appealing designs.

Qualifications and training of a graphic designer

The training required to become a graphic designer varies from country to country and from employer to employer. 

You may also need practical training that shows you how to use Adobe Photoshop and other software tools involved in print production, such as Adobe InDesign, and web design. It can also be beneficial to know how to use technical drawing tools such as CAD/CAM software or vector graphics tools like Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator.

What is a visual designer?

A visual designer is someone who designs the look and feel of a website or app. They create all of the images, illustrations, and graphics necessary to make the website look good. A visual designer will also design the layout of a site so that everything looks good together.

Visual designers are often employed by design firms or advertising agencies, where they may be responsible for conceptualising and implementing the overall look of a product or campaign. This can include everything from the colour scheme to the font choice, and even some aspects of web design and print layout.

They may work with other types of designers as well, such as illustrators and animators.

Responsibilities of a visual designer

  • Creating wireframes and mock-ups based on user needs

  • Creating high-quality visuals that represent the brand well

  • Creating interactive prototypes to test functionality

  • Conceptualising and creating layouts for printed or digital material using computer software – such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator – or traditional art materials like pencils and paints

  • Bringing ideas to life through drawing and painting

Qualifications and training of a visual designer

Most visual designers have completed a course in fine arts or graphic design, but some may have other qualifications such as business or marketing. A visual designer will have experience with Adobe Creative Suite programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. They can also learn how to use HTML/CSS to code websites.

The overlap between graphic designers and visual designers

The overlap between graphic designers and visual designers is a source of confusion for people looking to enter the industry in either role, so it's important to know the difference.

A graphic designer creates logos, websites, and other marketing materials while a visual designer creates interfaces (for example, apps or websites).

Graphic designers work on projects from start to finish: they create concepts, sketches, and mock-ups before creating finished designs in Photoshop or Illustrator. Visual designers are more involved in the design process, but their main focus is on the end-user experience rather than the actual design itself. Visual designers might help select fonts and colours for a project, but they're not responsible for creating them.

Frequently asked questions

How do I become a graphic designer or visual designer?

The best way to become a graphic designer or visual designer is to get an education in the field. There are many schools that offer programs in design, but if you're just starting out, you may want to look into online courses or community colleges.

Why are graphic designers and visual designers paid differently?

Graphic designer salaries tend to get paid more because their skill sets are more diverse than those of visual designers.

How many projects should I expect to work on at one time as a graphic designer or visual designer?

The answer to this question depends on the size of your team and the type of project you're working on. If you're working in an agency setting, it's likely that there will be several designers and other creative professionals working on different projects at once. If you're freelancing, then you'll have more flexibility with the number of projects you take on.

It's important to know the difference between a graphic designer vs visual designer. While all designers specialise in visual communication, they do it in different ways. The best way to understand the difference is to take a look at each profession's education, experience, workflow, and other requirements.

For more information about training in design, visit the UCD Professional Academy.