Heard about water-cooler jokes? Back then in offices there used to be one watercooler on each floor and folks came to drink water (if we go by the obvious logic). But that was just an excuse. Exactly like kids in Indian schools go to sharpen their pencils near the dustbin just to spend some time with their friends. The water-cooler was more like a gossip joint for colleagues to exchange juicy talks or to crib about unapproved leaves. Back then, huh! This still happens. Only now water coolers are replaced by vending machines.

It took me quite a while to understand how different graphic design is from web designing. And how do you expect people to know the difference? The graphic design originated in the early bit of the nineties. Web design came a decade later. Only when the internet made it to the people.

Just like my mother who thinks that because it is a multicuisine restaurant, they are supposed to serve everything excellent; most people think that any designer can work on your e-brochure, or web banner or create new packaging for your dry fruit brand or come up with illustrations for your ad campaign.

A BIG NO

Web design requires coding. But that’s not the only thing that sets them apart. There is as much difference between graphic design and web design as there is between the homophones- write and right. They sound the same, mean poles apart.

Graphic design involves the use of graphics — typography, imagery and so on. And that’s how it communicates an idea. While graphic designers do penetrate into digital projects, their medium is more restricted to print.

Graphic design is good imagery designed for problem-solving, narration, for the purpose of visualizing anything conceptual or just textual.

It has no coding involved and does not need any programming. Use a pen and pencil and you can still create a graphic design, which will, of course, be converted into vectors and pixels by a graphic designer.

Web designing is no different, with a little twist here and there. And therefore, most people think that you can use them as synonyms. Web design is all about design on the internet and that makes it dynamic and can be reiterated multiple times even after the final version goes live. Unlike graphic designs that are used for banners, brochures or cover pages, web design is translated to create a working website. It needs HTML coding, CSS and probably other programming languages like JavaScript or PHP.

A classic example of graphics? A company brochure or your kid’s favorite comic book. Web design would be this page, for example. Right-click anywhere empty on this page and you will see the genius of our web designer.

Graphics design is rooted in the print medium.

It’s going to be visually beautiful, but in the end, it’s going to be less interactive when it is compared to web design. Although, it doesn’t mean web design is always better than graphic design. Sometimes static imagery can convey more than a fully interactive web page.

With an artistic assembly of images or texts, graphic designers will be able to do good story-telling or communicate a message through a logical flow of ideas. Going by all the same visual disciplines, web design pretty much communicates ideas through visuals too. But the focus is further narrowed to create an interactive experience for web navigators. Web design gives liberty to the users to interact with the designed web product, rather than simply consuming whatever is served through imagery.

Although, web design is incomplete without graphics.

Web design can leverage visual representations such as illustrations or iconography, which belongs to the graphic design domain. All these elements eventually need to be fit on the 5.5-inch screen to give an interactive user interface. So while graphic design is more about problem-solving through visuals, web designing is all about creative functionality. Web designs have a more engineered take towards its creation, unlike graphics which is free-flowing.

While graphic designs are made with viewers in mind, everything about web designs is user-centric. Of course, web designs do take into consideration ideas and aesthetics, but it’s somehow restricted by the boundaries of load time. The challenge is that the digital design, i.e. the images, motion graphics, animation, etc. should be created in such a way that it shouldn’t take the web page more than 3 seconds to load. Anything more than that and the website loses its audience.

Who’s the culprit? The nerdy-looking guy, probably sitting in a cramped space, working overtime in a digital company.

Now let’s come to the communication part.

In an article by Oliver Reichenstein, he claims “Web Design is 95% Typography”. Do we need to decode this? Well, web design does not have much scope of creativity when it comes to Typography. See those awesome banners while passing through an overbridge, or digital signages at the airport? What beautiful types! Sorry, that can’t happen with web designs.

This disaster can happen when web designers delve deeper into creativity.

Because communication is an important aspect of design and more than 95% of information on the web is in the form of written communication, web designs have should solve its purpose through the power of Type, i.e. establish a strong and clear connection between the site and the users.

For graphic designs, type is generally not an issue. They say graphic designing is all about story-telling and therefore, this segment can take creative leverage. Web designing doesn’t work that way. It needs to consider the appearance of text on different screens and in various browsers.

So now that you know quite a bit about the two, let’s look at it from the audience’s perspective.

Graphic design is a lot about visual balance and aesthetics. The audience will never dislike something made using classic design principles. It is like natural scenic beauty, nature is almost always soothing to the eye. That’s what graphic design is primarily, even though it works on pegs and holes. The audience likes a good art piece, they appreciate it and move on. But unlike web designs, they don’t interact with it.

That’s why web design seems to establish an on-going relationship with the audience. Why do you think you use one particular website? You might want to believe that it’s because they have some great products on the racks or offer amazing deals. But it’s also because you like the experience of shopping on that platform. You like where the call-to-action buttons are placed or how the visuals tap when you switch from section to another. Most of it is subconscious. Good branding studios know the working of that subconscious and designs to get an exact reaction that you would upon interacting with something you like.

Graphic design needs to rely on peoples’ opinions. ‘What a great book cover. Maybe that’s why the book is popular’!

That is where judging the book by it’s cover comes from. If a great designer creates a really beautiful cover design, it doesn’t always mean the content is going to be engrossing too.

But how can web design be judged? Google Analytics is a web designer’s biggest critic. How well the design performed can be measured is by analyzing the bounce rates, keyword referrals or the number of recent visitors, and other statistics.

So you see graphic and web design work in their respective territories. Now let’s go ahead and draw a fine line to give you some final takeaways.

1. Graphic design’s first one in the rule book: Visuals precede everything else.

2. Web design is a two-way correspondence; Not just the user reaction, but the user experience and interaction also matters.

3. Graphic design has the ‘the end’ banner with it. Once done, it’s over and out. Web designs are constantly improved to enhance user experience.

4. Web design should be intuitive, and graphic design should be communicative.

Whether it’s graphic or web, as a brand owner you need the power of design to give your business a head start. And just for your information, it’s not like your golden years, where just a design can do. Frankly, a good design is not good enough anymore.

Whether to hire a graphic designer or a web designer, is not your prerogative. You need both kinds of skill-sets on the branding battlefield. You need a logo that breaks the ice and you also need a website that’s interactive, flexible and at the same time, scalable.

With changing times brands’ mindsets have also evolved. Agencies no longer have to go knocking on their doors to unlock the power of design.

On the contrary, we find CEOs and CFOs quoting, ‘how can you ignore the potential of a good design?”

So, do you as a brand want to innovate? Want to forge lasting relationships with your customers? Want to outflank your business rivals? Want to grow and shine? Artists at Slangbusters are ready for you.

Author's Bio: 

I have been fascinated by brands since childhood and loves collecting touchpoints of his favorite brands. I bridg the gaps between Research, Strategy, and Design at the studio and leads the Slangbusters through each project. Now I create my favorite brands at Slangbusters.