Graphic design is an enjoyable activity for me, although I do not focus primarily upon it in Web Design. The skill provides pleasing palettes, good flow and a great user experience. The two design skills are different, but done together will make something beautiful.
Comparing web design and graphic design is like comparing an iPad to a painting. Both display beautiful visuals, but one is interactive and the other will get you a security escort to the door if you touch it.
Graphic design has its origins in print. Whether it’s a magazine layout or a children’s book, printed materials tend to be less interactive than their digital counterparts. But they still depend on an artistic assembly of images, text, and other graphics to tell a story or communicate a message. There needs to be flow and logic to navigating printed material.
Web design shares these same roots as a largely visual design discipline, but the focus on the web is how artistry can create experiences people can interact with — participate in — rather than simply consume. A web designer may work with a graphic designer for visual elements like illustrations and iconography, but a web designer will then fit all these pieces together to create a complete interactive design — something usable.
And a website will have different paths users can take — web designers need to make sure users have a good experience and can achieve their goals. They understand how navigational elements, call to action buttons, and other interactive elements guide, influence, and enhance a user’s journey.
There’s a word for this set of concerns in website design — it’s what UI design is all about. In a sense, graphic designers, like web designers, are concerned with UX, user experience. But they’re largely exempt from worrying about UI, how the user interacts with their work. Even the term for audience in each discipline suggests this difference — graphic design professionals usually have “viewers” in mind rather than “users.” Web design professionals are typically UI designers and UX designers in a unified role — how often have you seen “UI UX designer” listed on a resume?
Graphic designers have much of the same skill sets as web designers. They both know typography, color palettes, and the rules of composition and layouts. But good web designers pay attention to how these elements affect online interactivity and usability.