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  1. Jin

    IMHO:

    Not all web designers are graphic designers. Web design isn’t limited to the visual aspect alone. That’s what makes the web an interesting medium. Some people are focused on user interface and usability only(as in how the site is used, creating wireframes). these people don’t need to be graphic designers to succeed in what they do. Would you call Jacob Nielsen a web designer? what about Zeldman?

    I too had a complex about what to label myself, since I’ve been doing graphics design, frontend/backend scripting, and even writing stored procedures. I pretty much concluded it’s best not to label. If for salary purpose, I just call myself a web developer.

  2. Darren Hoyt

    “Graphic designer” seems altogether limiting when talking about web designers because web designers are expected to do a lot more than solve visual/orientation problems or make things aesthetically pleasing. They need to integrate design with technology, rather than letting it stand on its own.

    I think this is why more people these days define themselves as “interactive designers”. It suggests an entirely separate layer of discipline for designing around user behavior, while not necessarily requiring full-fledged programming skills.

    I wouldn’t say interactive design is any less creative than print (posters, identity), just creative and challenging in a different way.

    Darren Hoyt’s latest post: All the Way Down

  3. Mokokoma

    Tough one,

    I’m also experiencing the same challenge (graphic designer/web designer/web developer) - as much irritating as it it, I think we should be aware that even though the disciplines are related or go hand-in-hand, they’re different’hats’… now our challenge is that we want a title that will sum up all the different disciplines…

    What makes it hard is that the disciplines are related, otherwise you would refer to yourself under a different title, depending on the situation. A person who is a Painter, Songwriter, Animator and copywriter will definitely struggle to find one title that sums up all they do!

    Mokokoma’s latest post: What would have made the ‘perfect’ Pick ‘n Pay logo redesign?

  4. neil

    id say web design incorporates all (graphic design and coders).

    both are important aspects of web design

  5. Andrei

    Because true, professional, web designers don’t just “make things pretty”.

    To quote:
    Reading the posts before me, it’s painfully clear that the majority of the people, even on Sitepoint, still do not understand what professional design requires.

    To the OP (and to those who think design == decorating):

    When a client appears that way, we politely explain:

    “Before we begin the actual artwork for a website, we first build a sitemap for you, and a content pyramid to determine which parts will be given primary-level importance, secondary, and so on.

    The sitemap is required to optimize your website for your audience (the end-users), and to allow the possibility of future expansion. If this is not prepared before we begin any work at all, there is a significant chance that your website will be very difficult for your audience to use, and could negatively affect your ROI. Industry studies show that if users cannot immediately find what they are looking for, or they cannot make sense of the content on the site, they exit.

    Also, if a sitemap is not properly designed beforehand, there is a strong possibility that future changes will require a “start from scratch” approach: we highly discourage this as it creates disorientation among users, which can lead to existing users leaving the website before completing the task they had set out to do.

    In that regard, the content pyramid supports the sitemap by providing each section with the appropriate “call-to-action” spots and “focus areas” in order for users to find what they need, and for your party to maximize content exposure.

    After we have presented the above work for your approval, we will then begin designing the user-interface layout, and provide you with the documentation/explanation behind our approach. Once you have agreed to, and understood, the completed blueprints, then we shall begin the graphic-related design work on your website.

    As you can see, there is a reasonable amount of work before we even reach the point of applying graphics, which is why we require a X% down payment beforehand.

    Now, once we have crossed that point, and are in the process of creating your website’s graphic design, our primary concern is to either (a)create a design which is homogeneous to your existing brand image, or (b)create a design which is unique and appropriate to your target market, yet tries to avoid alienating other potential markets as well.

    With the amount of websites out there, which number well into the hundreds of millions, it is by no means an easy task. However, as you can see from our track record (we have been featured several times on web design galleries, and won a few local awards and accolades), our experience and expertise are more than capable of delivering the work that is required.”

    Yes, I’m sure a lot of people did not realize that is how much work it takes to properly design a website. Proper web design is NOT graphic design.

    /unquote.

    Original Link: http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3954832&postcount=18

  6. scott

    I am constantly frustrated by the idea that graphic designers can be web designers. Just because you know how to make something in photoshop doesn’t make it a good website. Where I work we have two “web designers” that are actually graphic designers. I take their designs and alter them to work properly for the web and then code them out. Their constant use of crazy drop shadows and other elements PROVE that they do not deserver the title of web designer. I certainly have learned how to push my coding skills by trying to recreate their images on the web…but my god, just learn html and css…it will change the way you make ‘designs’.

  7. Wardell

    I agree with you, technically it is all graphic design, and the title of graphic design simply ceded to the originating discipline which is print design, other types of graphic design titles (motion graphics, web design) simply developed to further distinguish designers focus and skill sets.

    I would also like to say in reference to a previous post that if a web designer doesn’t have graphic design skills then they aren’t a web designer in the common use of the title, they would be a web developer, or information architect.
    Also to some of the comments seeming to belittle print/ graphic design I have to say if you asked me right now as a web designer to design a book or a magazine in a print composition program using the right margins and pantone colors in preparation for publishing I would be lost.

    In the end I guess its just a matter of the individual choosing the best way to clearly and accurately describe their abilities. I personally refer to my self as a web designer and developer because when a lot of people hear the title web designer they think of a a graphic designer with limited or basic coding abilities (which is accurate in many cases), and likewise when some people here the title web developer they think of a coder with limited design abilities, so since I have both skill sets I use both titles.

  8. Mike

    I usually call myself a Media Designer. That would include every sort of design including video. Web or Graphic Designer is excepted more I think but Media covers the whole media world.

  9. mark

    Call yourself what you will, it is the work that counts!

    Titles mean less and less in every part of our sub-divided, super-specialized job-functions economy. Read 3 different ads for “Art Director” or “designer”, and you will find 3 very different jobs, none of them exactly what the university explained was ‘art direction’ or ‘design’.

    As far as being a ‘designer’ or ‘web designer’, there are people working under both of those titles that can neither design (an action, independent of media), nor code for the web (which is programming, also independent of function or degree of subtlety). Graphic design is like most modern jobs; using outdated titles from a bygone era that do not lend themselves to the depth or breadth of the modern discipline.

    Or…Is the actual problem that everyone in the field wants to appear to be an expert in everything, when they probably have one or two key, high-level skills, and the rest at a much lesser degree of competency? Are you really a graphic designer, or a photoshop retoucher, or an electronic illustrator, or a web programmer? Or all? Be honest….

  10. Bunny got Blog

    I totally agree with the gentleman above.Titles mean nothing in most jobs.I think more freelancer’s have the capability to do both and the flexibility in their choice of work.
    To me a graphic designer has the experience of all the above and distributes his many talents in all his work.

    Good read

    Bunny got Blog’s latest post: Bunny’s Bucket List - In Celebration of Dave Freeman’s Life

  11. Lindsey

    While you’re right that both web designers and print designers fall under the umbrella of “graphic designer” most people think of print designers when the term graphic designer is used.

    And the truth of the matter is a web designer and a print designer are two different beasts.

    A web designer understands the internet and the technology behind a website - how certain things need to be to work in a web environment. Just like another commenter said they don’t just make things pretty. They make things look good AND make sure it’s functional/usable. And most web designers also can code at least rudimentary HTML.

    A print designer doesn’t just make things pretty either. But it’s a completely different medium. A web designer is often not a good print designer. Print designers without web design experience often don’t understand why certain parts of their designs can’t be incorporated into a design - and the reason usually is it lacks the flexibility needed in coding and updating the site.

    I run into this problem at my job all the time as we hired a “graphic designer” who has only a little web design experience, and who constantly designs templates that do not work with our CMS because of their lack of flexibility to content that varies from client to client.

    Lindsey’s latest post: VOTE: I Want Your Opinions

  12. Zinni

    Wow, the good comments are flying in on this one! However, I think a lot of you may preaching to the choir, and missing the point that I am raising.

    I agree with pretty much everything that has been said so far about web designers having to know usability and some web development as well. However the question that I am raising is not about whether graphic designers are web designers. Rather aren’t web designers graphic designers. As an example: a square is a rectangle by definition, but a rectangle is not necessarily a square.

    I guess not all web designers are print designers, but web designers should be graphic designers IMO (Web developers, and information architects are a different story). What I am getting at is opening discussion about the intertwined relationships of titles and web designers. And at what point did the term “graphic designer” become a title for what is actually “print design.”

    I would also like to back up Lindsey by saying that print designer’s don’t just make things pretty. There is a ton of work that goes into creating complex visual solutions for print, just as there is for web.

    Also, I agree that titles really mean nothing but unfortunately they do serve a purpose within business. I think for that reason they are a necessary evil and that is why I struggle with finding one that isn’t outdated or useless.

  13. Tiago C

    I think Graphic Designers are not Webdesigners. The web is so different that generally demands a complete different process of working.
    If you want to put this all under the same umbrella, then I think the correct term should be “Communication Designer”.
    In Webdesign you need the skills of a Graphic Designer. But that’s not all the story. 20% of the process of Webdesign is Graphics Design. The other 80% is Information Architecture, Usability, Interaction Design, Experience Design, etc…

  14. Jin

    “And at what point did the term “graphic designer” become a title for what is actually “print design.””

    That hasn’t been the case in the past few decades. If it did, it was due to misconception. Graphic Design isn’t limited to print only. Long before the web, there were graphic designers working on Director projects, tv, films, games etc.

    “However the question that I am raising is not about whether graphic designers are web designers. Rather aren’t web designers graphic designers.”

    Graphic design is a subset of the skills a web designer has, therefore I’d say a web designer can be a graphic designer. This is true in most cases imo.

    “I guess not all web designers are print designers, but web designers should be graphic designers IMO (Web developers, and information architects are a different story).”

    IMO, I don’t think they all SHOULD BE. Web design isn’t just about graphics. I consider anyone involved in front end development a web designer. This includes people who design interaction, usability, branding.

    This isn’t to say graphic isn’t important, because it is. However, web design is a multi-disciplined field. Some designers are stronger at certain subsets than others.

  15. Andrew Kelsall

    @Jin “Graphic Design isn’t limited to print only”.

    Yeah, that’s totally true. When I studied for my Degree a few years back, it was for Graphic Design. This coarse was formed by 2 parts, Print Design and Multimedia Design.

    Both under the umbrella of Graphic Design. However, I don’t know how things have changed over the years. Now, print designers are expected to do web and vise-versa.

    I think Graphic Design is a very generic term, but does have a bias towards print for varied reasons.

  16. Zinni

    @ Jin,

    I guess I have always considered people who do solely development to be a “production” guy and not really a designer. While I would consider it to be more demanding than typical print production, IMO it is not design. This is not to say that a Designer can’t be good at development (I do both), those who do solely development are not designers IMO. The reason I say that all web designers should be graphic designers, is because of the lack of elegant typography and sloppy work that is abundant on the web. Those who have studied design usually do a better job with these details.

  17. Stephen

    I think some people are getting hung up on the mediums. Everyone’s points are all true but I’d just like to clarify exactly what Graphic Design is.

    Website designers with no formal training as graphic designers can probably all design really effective websites by using their intuition. This intuition has a long and wonderful history that people have been studying and trying to understand. They call it… Graphic Design.

    Graphic Design, by rough definition, is the profession of communicating a message through the visual medium by use of images, text and graphic marks.

    Graphic design is visual communication.

    However, because nothing exists in isolation, graphic designers often specialise in an area of craft — print design, media design, website design etc. which has led to the misunderstanding that Graphic Design is the craft medium. (Graphic designers do this because it’s really difficult to sell someone a ‘concept’ without a ‘product’)

    Graphic Design transcends the medium.

    In the traditional sense, a “graphic designer” could perhaps research and solve the problem of teaching HIV/AIDS awareness to illiterate people through a poster campaign which uses culturally significant imagery.

    The core concepts of their poster campaign could be carried through to other visual mediums and this is what Graphic Design is all about.

    … so …

    Should website designers in certain situations call themselves graphic designers? Not unless they’re solving issues of communication that transcends the medium.

    When should graphic designers call themselves web designers? Only, when they’re developing designs and content for the medium of the web.

    I hope that wasn’t unnecessary rhetoric but I felt it needed to be explained for some people who think Graphic Design is only about the aesthetics of design.

  18. Zinni

    Stephen,

    I think you have summed up what I was trying to explain in my comments in way more words. Thank you for your well organized response.

    Should website designers in certain situations call themselves graphic designers? Not unless they’re solving issues of communication that transcends the medium.

     — This is exactly the type of response I was originally hoping to receive. Great response…

  19. Janko

    Excellent article and excellent comments. I enjoyed reading everything written here. I have the same problem when trying to identify my title.

    I recently read a similar article, about the difference between web designer and web developer. It seems as if web design overlaps at some points with graphic design and development.

    Personally, I call myself a web developer because primarily I am a software architect. But on the other hand, I do all the creative work (which is my passion), from designing to client-side scripting. I also worked as a graphic designer (I did package design and related) several years ago.

    So when people ask me what is my job title, I just start talking about the weather :)

  20. Scott

    I should clarify my previous statement written out of haste.

    I have no problems with graphic designers. And yes, web designers can (and to some extent probably should) be graphic designers. However I do think that fully comprehending and actively coding (I’m just talking about HTML, CSS and javascript here) a site after the graphic design is what makes you a web designer.

    Knowing the code changes how you structure a site. It effects the wireframing (which should occur before the design) and even the concept of the site itself.

    As I quickly scan the comments I see that Lindsey has done a much better job of explaining.

    Here is a perfect example. Just last week one of our ‘web designers’ created a site that was 1200px wide and had left side navigation (under a header already at 200px) that was over 900px in height!

    Ok, enough frustration.

  21. Zinni

    Scott,

    I’m sorry but that is just plain ignorance towards the medium. That is not a problem of being a “graphic designer” it is a problem of being uneducated. If I was management at your company, that would set off some major flags… I’m assuming you work at an agency of course.

  22. Paul

    Interesting. I agree with those who point out that web design is much more than just visual communication; that it includes content design and design of usability, user experience and other functional considerations all of which have to take into account the specific characteristics of the medium.

    Visual communication - content - functionality. Three aspects of a website. The specialised roles that relate to these aspects: web designer, information architect, web developer. In smaller projects one person may have to wear several or all of the hats. The title the individual adopts will likely depend on where they see their core skillset.

    Nevertheless, in each role, the specific characteristics and possibilities of the medium have to be understood. That means that each must have the ability to *realise* a solution in the medium, not just illustrate one. Because the only way to fully understand the possibilities of the web is to develop for it.

    IMO the distinction between “creative” and “technical” roles in the web medium is artificial and should be dropped. In the context of a website, creativity is the generation of innovative ideas to solve a problem, and that applies as much to functionality as it does to communication.

    Although focussed on functionality, the role of a web developer involves designing a solution (creativity), as well as implementing it (technical) in chosen scripting languages.

    Similarly, the role of the web designer involves creating a solution to a communication problem, and implementing it in HTML / CSS.

  23. Ben

    This is what I was taught in college:

    There are three major jobs involved with creating a website - interface design (both planning the layout and creating the graphics), structural design (content and navigation) and coding. Since most of the time people are working in more than one of those fields, things were simplified by just calling everybody involved with the creation of websites a “web designer”

    (Personally I’m not quite happy about this simplification, because for some strange reason “designers” are commonly only thought of as “people who make things look pretty”, although we all know that there’s not a single design job out there that’s restricted to good looks.)

    Personally I prefer the word web developer (I’m more into usability and coding than interface design, anyway :P ).

    But I have the same problem with web developer and application developer - basically a web developer IS an application developer, but strangely enough people think I know nothing about the web when I tell them I’m an application developer.

    Back when I worked as both, I simply referred to myself as “software developer and web programmer” - so maybe just go for “graphic and web designer”? ;)

    Ben’s latest post: Cheat Sheets

  24. Dan

    I think ‘Web designer’ is a sub-class of the parent class ‘Graphic designers’

    Where a web designer is a graphic designer, but not all graphic designers are web designers.

    With the medium comes the need for extra skills beyond that of the traditional designer, like knowing css/javascript, and also technical knowledge of computer screens and how displaying design on a screen instead of paper affects the experience.

  25. Jin

    Zinni, thanks for the topics, raised a lot of good comments.

    “The reason I say that all web designers should be graphic designers, is because of the lack of elegant typography and sloppy work that is abundant on the web. Those who have studied design usually do a better job with these details.”

    While I agree with this statement, I also see that you’re fixated on the visual aspect. As others commented said, web design isn’t about visual alone. It’s about problem solving. I’ll give you an example.

    I work with a designer, whose main job isn’t to create pretty photoshop mockups, or even to code the most compliant code. His job is to create the most usable user face via wireframe mockups. He knows how to brand a user’s product or service. He’s excellent at creating the most usable and friendly interface(not the “looks, but “function”).

    Of course the luxury of having a non-grahical designer depends on the size of your team and budget. My point is, not all web designers need to be graphic designers. Since there are other aspect of web design. Web design isn’t just about visual communication. It’s about interaction, usability as well. In fact, when creating a website or web app, the decorating part is the last thing to be considered and implemented. But I’d like to point out, regardless of the focus, a web designer should definitely have a strong sense of the aesthetics.

  26. Zinni

    Jin,

    I see what you are saying. I am currently focusing on the aesthetics, however I may be taking the expertise of these individuals for granted because I typically consider this a part of the aesthetic design process. I weight the impact of form vs. function (and force our other designers to do so as well) which I believe includes usability and information architecture when designing for the web.

    Thanks for your words.

  27. Joram Oudenaarde

    I personally think that webdesigners and graphic designers are very, véry different on a lot of areas.

    Webdesigners:
    - They design more than just a “pretty picture”. They also have to think about usability in the interactive sense.
    - They don’t have to think about the different kinds of presses (rotationpress, copperpress, offset and such)
    - They don’t have to think about a vast range of color profiles (newspaper profiles, magazine profiles, stuff like that).
    - They don’t have to think about using 200dpi (newspapers), 300dpi (magazines, packages), 100dpi/60dpi/50dpi (posters, giant banners, bus-stickers).
    - They dó have to think about multiple screenresolutions.
    - They don’t have to think “3D”. Like a full-3D experience that package-design brings.
    - Less options for typography, in both fonts as well as typesetting
    - Have to be able to think “code” at least a little bit

    Graphic Designers:
    - Are usually (not always) less experience in interface/usability design
    - Can do all sorts of neat things with typography without the need for images or hacks/tricks
    - Have to keep in mind for what medium the assignment is going to be used (newspaper, poster, magazine, businesscard and such)
    - Have to be able to know the purpose of the proper colorprofiles
    - Certified PDF. Even though designers don’t usually use this (pre-pressers/DTP’ers do), it’s a good thing to know about this because if a file is too extravagantly put together (read: impossible to print and PDF), it’s a problem for the client, printer and prepresser. Webdesigners usually have less to think about when it comes to these problems.

    So I think while both type of designers have some aspects in their work that overlap and are very similar, the more in-dept style of work and design makes their work very different :)

  28. d

    I don’t think graphic designers need to be web designers and web designers don’t need to be graphic designers. Sure, you can do both, no problem. But it doesn’t mean you have to know both, and it doesn’t mean you like to do both….I received BFA in graphic design, not in web design. The students who wanted to pursue web design and other media related mediums, studied electronic intermedia. I could design a website, because I know about design, that’s what graphic design is, a way to communicate an idea, information, a concept, all of it visually….but I choose not to do web design because I just simply do not enjoy as much. Simple as that…and some web designers might not enjoy graphic design either and so choose to only do web. Web design is more technical, while graphic design is more conceptual. Some of the best graphic designers in history are not web designers, web design is a new media, a new career. I think it’s wrong when someone who is a graphic designer automatically is assumed to be a web designer as well. They are both similar, but not the same. It’s like just because you studied medicine, does that mean you can be a dentist, or a plastic surgeon, or a cardiologist, or a urologist. They each have their specialty.

    Graphic designers can choose to specialize in a variety of things. Mostly it is print work. Web designers specialize in web related work, and making web sites. I see web design as a stem from graphic design. Graphic design has been around for decades, and it’s everywhere you turn, it’s all around you. Web design is a new career, but they are NOT the same, and neither should be assumed to do both….

  29. d

    I’d like to ad that without the internet, there would be no web design…..Graphic Design is everywhere and has been around for centuries. It’s a visual communication….whether is on print, or hand made, or on canvas, or expressed through photographs and text only, you’re communicating an idea….web design cannot exist without the web….graphic design does not need photoshop, or illustrator to exist, it needs a concept, an idea, and an artist.

  30. decline to state

    Web progammers have *special* knowledge-what a load of crup! They have a lot of knowledge, for sure. Let them try to deal with an actual print job-there’s a ton of skills required there. Actually, having worked with actual printers, with twelve years of print experience I’m in utter awe of the guys who actually run the press, who work graveyard shifts, spend their lives permantently tatooed by ink, most likely have hearing damage from the machines they crawl over night and day, and most certainly are paid even less than myself.

    I’m not challenging anyone’s level of expertise-just accepting the fact that some fields are more popular than others. If you want to make even a baseline decent living go with web design. 10 years from now? Who knows?

    (I’m switching over to the web route personally-just hate web designer’s arrogance.) /; (

  31. Phil Barnhart

    AFTER I send potential clients home with a copy of “Don’t Make Me Think,” I find I spend a lot of time discussing the web experience vs the look. I am a web programmer - and have been incredibly lucky on many occasions to work with talented visual designers - no matter what their title. The real challenge is designing the experience - why it is such a territorial issue in web production when on movie sets, in magazine production, and even retail shopping design no one gives the role delination a second thought.

  32. KevBurnsJr

    If you don’t know CSS, you’re not a web designer.

    You’re a square peg MFA print era dinosaur.

    Sry.

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