Top Differences Between Graphic Designer and UI Designer

When one mentions design people quickly assume that one is talking about graphic design. However, in website design and development, designing is diverse with more than just graphic design. This diversity has been brought by the advancement in technology where new and more specialized design tools are being developed. Comparing the two including the work they do, who they get instructions from, the tools they user, the stage of development each is engaged in, etc. can help us clearly differentiate a graphics designer and an interface designer. These differences can be summarized as:-

Who is Who – Of the two options, a graphic designer’s job description is the easier to understand. A graphic designer is a professional who creates and design fonts and graphic elements used for visual communication. Graphic designers assemble images using their imagination, color, typography to communicate an idea or message through a print, web or visual design itself. Graphic designers are considered to be artists since they produce works of art from imagination. Their creations are meant for publishing, print and other platforms such as electronic media for branding/advertisements and brochures. They also do illustration and graphic design for web visuals.

On the other hand, Interface Designer or User Interface Engineer is a web design and development expert who specializes in wire-framing, mood boards building, and design and testing of web page user interface. IU Designer works in the same field as a graphic designer but their responsibility is more complex since they are concerned with the general look and feel of the finished product. They work with UX designers and other specialists in web design and development. Work done is based on the website or app development goals or the UX intended by the UX designer. The main responsibility of a UI Designer is to design each screen/page or interface where a user will interact and visually communicate the path as UX has been designed. They deal with interactive elements like the color scheme, buttons, icons, transition animations, form input fields, drop-down menu, and typography.

A visual illustration of an interface designer at work (Source: Rogue)

Stage of Engagement – Graphic designers are engaged in the later stages of web development after the structures have already been developed. They work hand-in-hand with the content creators to deliver the final product. They give websites the content and the attractive look.  

Contrariwise, interface designers are engaged way early in the initial stages of development. They are a subset of UX designers and work hand-in-hand with other UX designers and clients to translate ideas into prototypes then prototypes into products. They develop the platform on which the graphic designers and content creators work on.  

Companies are also putting differentiation in graphic design & branding too when it comes to deliverables.

The Scope of Work – The main task for a graphic designer is to present information and communicate in a visual way that will be memorable and entertaining. Simply put its branding or advertising to communicate information to the end-user through texts and images. The aim of graphic designers is to create emotions and feeling to a product by picking the correct font and other visual elements such as images and motion pictures.

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Graphics Design on a webpage (Source: Dribble)

In contrast, interface designer, design the style, look/appearance, and usability of interfaces in software or computerized devices’ displays. They design how an interface will appear, how and where the menu will be, how and where the icons and buttons will be, where the text content will go, where the graphic content will go, the interface background, etc.. The main aim of interface designer is to maximize the usability and improve the user experience of a website, app/software or machines such as mobile devices, computers and other home appliances with display screens

Role Assignment – Since the main role of graphic designers is creating visual graphics for branding, advertising or simply attracting visitors, they fall under branding and marketing.  As a result, they get directions from the marketing or advertisement team of the company they are representing.

While graphic designers design graphics that go into web pages, interface designers design the web page interfaces that graphic goes in. As a result interface designers are engaged way early during the design stage and they get their directions from the website design and development team and sometimes engaged in brainstorming with the client to get the idea directly from the client.

Tools of Work – Graphic designers main engagement is the creation and manipulation of graphics/images and fonts as a result, their main tools of work are graphics design tools. Graphics design tools or software that are commonly used by these practitioners include Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Corel Draw, and Adobe Illustrator.

Image result for Graphics design on adobe photoshop

Manipulating an image on Adobe Photoshop (Source: Adobe)

On the other hand, although interface designers share some of the design software with graphic designers such as Adobe Photoshop, their specialized work tool include Figma, Sketch, Framer X, Adobe XD, Balsamiq, etc. There are tools that complement or supplement each other such as the RapidUI which transform Photoshop design files into HTML and CSS codes. With the new demand for responsive and interactive interfaces, there are also new tools for interactive interface design such as Principle.

Literally putting things, interface designer is a design engineer who designs a prototype from an idea while a graphic designer is an artist who dresses up a product to be visually appealing and to send visual messages across. While many designers interchangeably play the role of a graphic designer and interface designer the later require more of web development skills such as coding while the earlier require more of artistic skills, creativity and ability to use graphic design tools. However, specializing in one field has consistent growth and great improvement in work quality evidence from our own in house experience as a web design and development agency and a marketing agency.

Author Biography

Neeti A. is a social media and content marketing expert helping clients with complete social strategy covering influencer and content marketing part. Neeti also works as SEO consultant with, a leading web design & branding agency headquartered in Dubai, UAE.

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