Graphic Designer Vs Graphic Artist: The Differences Really Do Matter!

Illustration by  Dionna Hayden

Illustration by Dionna Hayden

Equally Important, Not the Same

In the world of Commercial Art, there are many important roles that come together to build the bridges of visual communication between the messengers and their recipients. Those of us who work in this industry are virtually invisible, yet ironically, we leave traces of ourselves everywhere you go with every line, curve, stroke, color, and font we produce.

Since childhood, I’ve longed to become part of the vast number of creatives engaging the world with art and design. Fast forward 30 years later, I have the privilege of serving at the capacity of graphic designer and graphic artist. Do I love them both? Absolutely! Are they the same job? Not so much. As the topic seems to pop up more and more with each client conversation I have, I thought it’d be a good time to address this "complicatedly-simple” topic: Graphic Designer vs Graphic Artist. First, It’s important to note: Not all graphic designers are graphic artists and not all graphic artists are graphic designers!

Let me explain…


Graphic Designer: The Problem Solver

A graphic designer presents visual solutions to communication problems. Think of designers as the jedi’s of the industry who use logic and the science of art to trigger a call to action from the receiver a message. A seasoned designer knows what kinds of fonts, styles, colors, etc. will resonate with a certain demographic and what kind of imagery should be paired with it to get the intended results.

For example: the color white in American culture is commonly associated with weddings, but symbolic at Chinese funerals; it's a designer's job to know facts like this. Here's a fun fact: there are graphic designers who do not know how to draw because it is not a requirement; but a strong head for problem solving is. Examples of graphic design work include: signage, logos, flyers, publication layout, etc.

Designer Traits:

  • Objective

  • "Left-brained” thinker

  • Analytical

  • Strategic Planner

  • Solution oriented

  • Communicates with logic

  • Triggers action


Graphic Artist: The Expressionist

A graphic artist presents ideas that trigger a mood. They have the ability to leave an impression creating imagery with or without words. This is not something that can necessarily be picked up and learned from a text book, but it takes an intuitive nature to connect and relate to oneself and others’ thoughts and emotions, to bring a particular idea to the surface; leaving their recipients in their wake with something new to think about that wasn’t there before.

For example: if you’re nervously sitting at the dentist office and the framed illustration of a comical mouth with the words “Open Wide” makes you giggle and relax, you have just experienced the work of a graphic artist. More examples include: Book cover art, Illustrations, comic art, stock images, photo art, album artwork, etc.

Artist Traits:

  • Subjective

  • "Right-brained” thinker

  • Creative

  • Free Thinker

  • Intuitive oriented

  • Communicates with feeling

  • Triggers mood

The Duality:

Although both skills operate from two ends of the industry spectrum, both can be successfully used interchangeably to create dynamic work; like peanut butter and jam, they're even better together! The key is executing balance on what a project requires. So, it's imperative to shop around and ask lots of questions to get a full understanding to make sure your next creative hire will accommodate what you're specifically looking for.

As a hybrid between the two entities, I have found great freedom connecting both worlds at any given moment during a project instead of contracting additional assistance. This allows me me to continuously flow through any project with ease and continuity while saving additional time and resources on my client's end. This merging of my professional duality is what makes Pink Elephant Graphic Design what it is, a service that provides impressive out-of-the box design solutions that any client would be proud to have.

Think we may be a good fit to work together? Feel free to check out some of my work and hit up the contact page for more options.