Graphic Artist vs. Graphic Designer


You may be 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. 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”.) The graphic artist can bend or break some of the design rules, but only if it fits the composition or story being told. images-1 images To better understand what a graphic artist might do, it may help to identify the kinds of work they produce. Some examples of what would be found in a graphic artist’s portfolio might include:
  • Cartoons
  • Illustrations
  • Graphic Novels
  • Comic Books
  • Movie Illustrations
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 might be influenced by dynamic action, dialogue, or stylizing within the composition. Here’s an interpretation of how a graphic artist could be shown through humanistic qualities: graphicartist 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 it’s utility. There is no other underlying message. Roaring_Rails_-_film_poster (1)Katzenjammer_Kids_1922AICS6V3_0202_ej_manchas_paulafrancos Graphic artists’ work can be seen in a print or digital format. It depends on the purpose of the design. Their work can be created by hand or on a computer, and the artwork they produce is developed so that it can work in both print and digital format.


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. pexels-photo To better understand what a graphic designer might do, you should be able to identify the kinds of work they produce. Some examples of what would be found in a graphic designer’s portfolio might include:
  • Infographic
  • Marketing Collateral
  • Print Design
  • Digital Design
  • Web Design
  • Instructional Design
  • Presentation Design
  • Logo Design
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. Here’s an interpretation of how a graphic designer could be shown through humanistic qualities: graphicdesigner 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 it is dependent on the content being displayed. This is reflected in the design of the graphic displayed above. 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. images-25647372040_2326047c05_bmagnifying-glass-541625_1920 Remember graphic design relies on the composition of the content, and the graphic design elements and principles are essential in laying out a composition. Presently, most design is created digitally, but graphic design can also be produced for a print and digital format.


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, so it must be taken through the process of laying out the composition. The designer cannot create visuals without understanding the content it will facilitate. For graphic artists, if there is no story involved, the visual possibilities are endless, and if the design is dependent on an abstract thought, it is almost 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.


CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

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