Digital Design vs Graphic Design (With Career Options)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Digital and graphic designs are examples of professionals who can transform an idea into a visual concept by using several tools, but both have different roles and produce different end-products. Candidates looking for a digital or graphic design role may be required to understand the difference between these roles to ensure they include the right skills and credentials for the relevant role. Understanding the difference between digital and graphic design can help you decide which role is best for your skills. In this article, we discuss the differences between digital and graphic design, their respective features and careers for both roles.

What are the differences between digital design versus graphic design?

When discussing digital design vs graphic design, it's easy to find similarities between the two industries. This is because both industries require roles and skills that transfer, but graphic design and digital signs differ significantly. Graphic design refers to professionals who develop images, layouts and designs for print, website, branding, marketing and advertising. These professionals primarily develop static images that are meant to present a brand's identity or convey a message.

Digital design potentially offers candidates a more versatile career, focusing on designs that offer movement or can be sequenced to create a motion picture. Primarily, digital designers focus on making images that are made to be viewed on technological devices, whereas graphic designers can produce images that can be printed onto clothes, novelty items and websites.

Related: Digital Design Job Description And Related Jobs

Features of graphic design

To help you distinguish between the two industries, here are some of the defining features of graphic design:

Brand alignment

Graphic designers commonly work with companies and brands to establish their unique identities. They can do this by conveying their core message through creating images that embody their company culture or key features. Graphic designers adhere to strict company standards when creating their images. Here are some features they focus on when creating their designs:

  • Colour

  • Layout

  • Company logos

  • Written style

  • The use of brand-friendly images

Typically, these professionals work in partnership with an in-house marketing or advertising team that dictates which colours and images are the most 'brand-friendly'. From this, they create images that allow consumers to quickly establish the brand and their identity.

Related: What Is a Graphic Designer? Definition and Requirements

Design for physical materials

Another distinguishing feature of graphic designers is that they don't necessarily focus on digital platforms. Graphic designers can create images and designs for several materials that help convey a brand's identity. Here are some examples:

  • Gift packaging

  • Envelopes

  • Product finishes

  • Product texture

  • Advertising billboards

  • Vehicle wrapping

Features of digital design

Even though digital designers are subject to fewer brand guideline restrictions, they still adhere to strict characteristics that inform their work. Here are some examples:

Functionality and interactivity

Digital designers typically focus on the relationship between art, design and interactivity. This means the graphics they produce are made to perform on different types of digital devices, seamlessly transferring between screen sizes and sites. Digital designers ensure that their products meet consumer expectations and can interact with their exact requirements.

For example, digital designers may be required to create digital designs that interact with the exact user, such as tracking their steps on a mobile application or interacting with their actions on a website. As such, it's vital that their designs are as functional as they're visually pleasing.

Data-driven

Digital designers engage more with their analytics than graphic designers. Using analytics allows digital designers to assess the success of their creations, helping them see which designs are gaining the most attention for consumers. Here are some analytics that digital designers use to track their success:

  • Website downloads

  • Sharing to social media sites

  • Likes

  • Comments

  • Interactions

  • Website traffic

Related: Digital Design Job Description Example (Plus Related Jobs)

Careers in digital design

Here is a guide to the careers available in the digital design industry, including salaries and primary duties:

1. Web designer

National average salary: $76,559 per year

Primary duties: Web designers take primary responsibility for the appearance of a website. They ensure that the visual elements of a website are pleasing and functional to the end-user, using a variety of online tools and design programs to improve the aesthetic of a website. This includes using digital design software to optimise the layout, improve the text, including sound and graphics or integrate video elements into a website. These professionals are instrumental in the improvement of pre-existing websites and the launch of brand-new sites.

2. Animation

National average salary: $80,120 per year

Primary duties: An animator produces hand-drawn or digital images that create a sequence of movements once edited together. Typically, animation professionals use stop-frame or computer-generated images to create an illusion of movement between two and three-dimensional models. To do this, candidates require comprehensive digital design and technical skills to understand how to navigate complex computer software to produce moving frames. These professionals are critical to providing visual aids that tell a story and provide more information. Animators may work across many different industries, such as video game design, motion picture, marketing and advertising.

Related: How to Become a Motion Designer: An Extensive Guide

3. User interface design

National average salary: $96,821 per year

Primary duties: User interface designers design a user interface from the human's point of view. Similar to user experience professionals, they're responsible for ensuring that a website is aesthetically pleasing for the site visitor, resolving any problems or website errors to improve the visitor's experience. User interface designs don't necessarily focus on computers or websites, they can also optimise and improve the design of home appliances and mobile technology. These professionals use comprehensive creativity and design skills to help them generate visually pleasing user experiences.

4. User experience designer

National average salary: $101,649 per year

Primary duties: User experience professionals focus on enhancing the interactions between the user and websites and digital products. This includes optimising design decisions and making interactions between humans and computers easier. Professionals understand how to do this by conducting market research and analysing website data to decide which features are most beneficial to the user. UX professionals require comprehensive visual design skills to improve the appearance of websites and online products. Candidates also use design software to enhance the functionality and visual design of websites, helping them revitalise layouts and increase aesthetic value.

Related: What Does a UX Designer Do? (With Skills and Daily Duties)

5. Digital product manager

National average salary: $121,626 per year

Primary duties: A digital product manager is responsible for the direction and vision of a digital product. This includes the production and launch of specialist software, online tools, applications and digitally designed services. These professionals ensure that digitally designed products match the pre-determined vision and remain on schedule and budget throughout the creation process. Digital product managers may oversee a team of project assistants and ensure that they complete all tasks on time and to their stakeholder's expectations.

Careers in graphic design

Here is a guide to graphic design careers, including salaries and their primary duties:

1. Illustrator

National average salary: $65,749 per year

Primary duties: An illustrator creates images and concepts that align with written content, such as a book, article or advertisement. These professionals use digital design software to create original images that enhance the written content or convey a message. Typically, these professionals produce two-dimensional static images but can work alongside animators and other graphic and digital design professionals to create visual illusions and moving pictures. Illustrators can also work on non-digital images and concepts for magazines, children's books, newspapers and other printed pieces of text.

Related: What Does an Illustrator Do and How Can You Become One?

2. Graphic designer

National average salary: $73,817 per year

Primary duties: A graphic designer uses digital tools to create visual concepts to improve the appearance of advertisements, merchandise, newspaper and magazine articles, clothing and marketing products. These professionals play a crucial role in establishing brand identity by creating digital images that reflect company personality. Graphic designers work from a design brief and build a relationship with their clients to produce graphics that encapsulate their personality and company goals. They can produce illustrations, brand logos or fresh designs for merchandising by using computer software.

Related:

  • 12 Careers In Graphic Design (With Average Salaries and Primary Duties)

  • How to Write a Graphic Design Cover Letter (With Example)

3. Production artist

National average salary: $93,354 per year

Primary duties: Production artists operate within a marketing and advertising agency to produce and assist with the design process for packaging and merchandise. These professionals work on several projects simultaneously, ensuring quality throughout their designs. Primarily, production artists produce and process digital designs and enhance pre-existing graphics to align closely with brand identity.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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