Differences between graphic and web design

Design is design right? Well yes, but there is difference between the two.

If I was made to choose, I would have to say that I would fall more into the web designer side of the fence. You have to have graphic design knowledge to be a web designer, but not necessarily the other way round. Even though I studied fine arts, I started my design career working on websites and interactive interfaces.

So what are the differences and are they important? The simplified version would be that a graphic designer deals in physical printed media, while a web designer deals more with user-ability and how a site flows and works in terms of user interaction. It is very important to understand the differences when deciding on what type of designer you need for your project.

I find myself torn between the two disciplines at times, I love working on branding and logos as it’s normally for new businesses and individuals. I really enjoy being able to help clients define and develop their brand and identity. I suppose it’s like planting a seed and watching it grow, but without all the dirt and soil stuff. Equally, I also love working on designing websites especially when it comes to designing layouts for portals and working out how to display information that is creative yet effective. It’s akin to solving a puzzle that has more than one answer. Makes me use the logical side of my brain, which is always good.

When working on projects for printed media there are many things to bear in mind, not least of all how the design will work when it’s printed, the medium it will be printed on, the inks and colours used. There are so many things to take into consideration that if you don’t factor them in at the start, it could turn into a costly exercise for the client. That’s why it’s critical to always get a clear brief from the client, and then the job of a good designer is to guide the client while still meeting the objective of the overall brief.

Web design has even more things to consider. Leaving aside the aesthetics look and feel side of things, there are technical things to bear in mind, like, is the code as slick and ‘clean’ as it can be? Does it validate on W3C and behave the same on all browsers? (evil IE6 notwithstanding) and does the site flow logically or at least guide the user on the path you want them to take? How can you optimise the site so that the search engine robots can index your site?

I once worked alongside a project that was described as an online magazine. The clients asked a graphic design agency to design the website concept. The finished design was great, really elegant and classy and did not work as a web page whatsoever. The designers had designed a beautiful printed image, but had no idea of how the website would work or how the different elements like navigation would be incorporated. In the end I think it cost more time and money trying to (stubbornly) plug the design into a working website than it would have cost the client to get a website designer to design three versions of it.

I think graphic and website design require very different mindsets and skillsets.

If you are interested in my further ramblings, I have blogged some tips on web design DIY style previously which you may find of some interest.

Next post will be, the differences between web design and web development – will I have enough screen space for that?

For now here are some statistics regarding browsers which you might find interesting:

This report was generated 12/31/2009 based on the last 15,000 page views to each website tracked by W3Counter. W3Counter’s sample currently includes 32,094 websites. The browser market share graph includes data from all versions of the named browser families, not only the top 10 as listed below.

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