Visual Designers vs. Graphic Designers: Everything You Need to Know
Creative & Design

Visual Designers vs. Graphic Designers: Everything You Need to Know


In many ways, a graphic designer and a visual designer sound like they have the same job. Some businesses may even use the titles interchangeably. However, while there are many similarities, these two careers are also vastly different. Visual designers and graphic designers do very jobs. If you’re interested in joining one of these careers, it’s critical to have a firm grasp of what these two jobs entail.

In this article, we’re going to give you a thorough tour of the visual and graphic design careers, including:

  • What these jobs entail.
  • The skills required.
  • How much you could potentially make.
  • The key differences between the two.

Let’s begin.

What is Visual Design?

Somewhere between graphic design and user interface (UI) design lies an exciting and oft-forgotten position: Visual Design!

Visual designers are the individuals who develop a brand’s online look and feel. They’re also the ones who determine the brand’s voice, and they’re responsible for conveying that voice across all digital platforms.

Where Would You See a Visual Designer’s Work?

Unlike graphic designers, visual designers focus primarily on digital work. Whether it’s an app’s user interface, web app, web pages, or a brand’s look and identity design, visual designers likely had a hand in creating it.

They are the problem-solvers of the design world, the digital design gurus that turn visual elements and design concepts into fine art.

Which Skills and Qualifications Does A Visual Designer Need?

If you’re planning on becoming a visual designer, there are several degrees you should consider. A bachelor’s degree in one of the following majors are an excellent place to start:

  • Graphic Design
  • Fine Art
  • Advertising
  • Communications

You may want to consider getting a qualification in business communications and marketing since it’ll give you a better understanding of your goals as a visual designer. You’ll also need to be proficient in the different design programs and tools.

Which Tools Would a Visual Designer Use?

Visual designers use a combination of tools to create digital design elements and other visual elements. The most commonly used tools include:

  • Sketch
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Adobe XD

As a visual designer, you’ll need to know when to use a particular tool. For example, Sketch and Adobe XD are fantastic user interface design tools. Adobe Illustrator, on the other hand, is perfect for digital illustrations and logo design.

Adobe XD
Taken from Adobe

How Much Does A Visual Designer Make?

Does the visual design career sound right for you? You might be interested in finding out a bit more about how much you’ll be earning before making a final decision.

A visual designer’s salary is impressive. According to Glassdoor, entry-level visual artists earn around $44,000, while more experienced individuals can earn up to $90,000 or more! Keep in mind that your experience, portfolio, qualifications, and location can all impact that number.

Salary may also depend on how you may want to work.  Some visual designers decide to work as freelancers but others may look into working for a user experience agency.

Also Known As…

Sometimes, a visual designer is just a visual designer. However, if they have the right skills, many other similar positions are often considered part of or the same as visual design. These include:

  • Brand Designers
  • Web Designers
  • Visual Communications
  • Digital Designer
  • User Experience Designer (UI Designer)

Unsurprisingly, these positions drive home the fact that visual designers focus on digital or online projects.

If you have communications experience, you may opt to become a visual communications expert. Prefer to put your CSS, HTML, and other web skills to work? Then web design may be the visual career path for you.

What is Graphic Design?

While visual design focuses on conveying a brand’s voice, graphic design focuses on conveying the specific message. Graphic designers do that through print media, advertisements, social media, and other forms of communication. More recently, they’ve also begun to do so through web design.

Where Would You See a Graphic Designer’s Work?

Traditionally, graphic designers would be responsible for producing print media rather than digital projects or visual design. However, as digital became more vital to marketing and communication, graphic designers are expanding their knowledge to include web design and coding.

Today, many graphic designers are also talented web designers, capable of building everything from landing pages to full-fledged sites.

How Much Does A Graphic Designer Make?

While the two careers have a similar salary range, visual designer salaries are typically higher than those of graphic designers. In an entry-level position, a graphic designer can earn around $35,000, while an expert can earn up to $72,000 a year. The average salary, $44,332, is only slightly higher than the average starting salary for a visual designer.

Similar to visual design, your experience, portfolio, qualifications, and location may affect your salary. Be sure to explore all your options before making a decision.

Which Qualifications Do A Graphic Designer Need?

Unlike visual designers, a graphic designer doesn’t necessarily require a degree. Being proficient in design software and tools may be enough to secure a graphic artist their dream job. That said, you can’t go wrong with a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design.

It’s also a good idea to learn how to create websites. While graphic designers work primarily on offline media, many have learned the skills required to become a web designer for the sake of job variety and security. Some are even capable of developing web apps if they have the right coding skills.

Which Tools Would a Graphic Designer Use?

Graphic designers can use various design tools since they work on both online and offline projects. The standard tools in a graphic designer’s arsenal should include things like:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Adobe InDesign
  • Affinity Designer / Photo
  • CorelDraw

These are just some of the many tools graphic designers use, and they’ll pick one depending on the type of project or designs required. For example, Photoshop is an excellent tool for creating stunning visual elements, while Adobe InDesign is ideal for creating print layouts.

Some designers may even use online tools, like Canva, to create quick and appealing designs for social media platforms.

Canva graphic design
Taken from Canva

Also Known As…

Just like visual designers, there are a few other titles for graphic designers and a few related positions. These include:

  • Graphic Artist
  • Art Director
  • Creative Director
  • Brand Designer

At first glance, it may seem that there are more growth opportunities within the graphic design field. Keep in mind that these are just job titles. Your career trajectory and advancement opportunities will largely depend on the company you work for, your qualifications, and your duties.

Do These Two Jobs Overlap?

The design and graphic careers experience quite a bit of overlap. In some cases, visual and graphic designers may well compete for the same positions.

Both focus on aesthetics, and it’s easy to confuse one with the other. As online communication becomes increasingly popular, that overlap is becoming more prevalent. Many graphic designers are moving towards web design and learning how to use their knowledge in the digital realm.

Other Creative Jobs You Might Like

There are more creative jobs out there! If you don’t want to join either the graphic design or visual design careers, there are a few other fun options available.

User Interface / User Experience Designers

UI and UX designers primarily focus on how users interact with and experience a website or app. It’s their job to ensure that everything is easy to use while looking fantastic. In other words, if an app or site looks horrible and is a nightmare to use, this is the guy on the design team that’s getting fired.

Multimedia Digital Artist / Animator

Few creative careers are as demanding as multimedia digital artist jobs. In this position, you’ll be responsible for multiple projects, including:

  • Enhancing photographs
  • Designing video games
  • Drawing video game characters
  • Creating animations
  • Adding sound effects
  • Creating special effects for TV and movies

If you want to work from home while performing one of the highest-paying jobs available in the design industry, you’ll love being a digital artist.

Conclusion: Which Career Should You Choose?

No one can make that decision but you. However, keep in mind that print design and traditional graphic design jobs are declining. The digital world is becoming the preferred playground for marketing and communication, so web skills are rising while the popularity of print media declines.

Having multiple skills will help you secure your dream job in the industry. For example, an understanding of coding languages can help you branch out into other positions such as web design.

Remember, in the end, it’s just a job title. A great job isn’t just determined by a title, the salary, the industry, or the team you work with. When you decide on a career, choose one you’ll enjoy and that aligns with your goals.


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