Graphic design and digital media are two closely related creative fields that involve visually communicating ideas.
However, there are some key differences between the two disciplines.
Graphic design has traditionally focused on print materials and static visuals, while digital media deals with dynamic, interactive content for digital platforms.
In this article, we will compare graphic design and digital media in depth, looking at the skills and knowledge required for each field as well as the types of work and tools used.
Discerning the overlaps and distinctions between these two fields can help creative professionals understand how to leverage their existing skills.
Or determine which career path aligns closest to their interests.
Graphic design is focused on visual communication and presentation of ideas through the use of images, text, color, shapes, and other graphical elements.
Graphic designers work in both print and digital mediums, but print design has traditionally been the foundation of the field.
Some core skills and knowledge areas of graphic design include:
- Typography - selecting fonts, designing page layouts, formatting text
- Visual hierarchy - arranging elements to guide the viewer's eye
- Color theory - using color to evoke emotions and convey ideas
- Drawing and illustration - creating custom images and icons
- Layout and composition - balancing graphical elements
- Branding and identity design - creating visual systems for companies
Graphic designers work on a wide variety of print materials including:
- Logos - Iconic symbols that represent a brand
- Marketing collateral - Brochures, catalogs, direct mail pieces
- Books and magazines - Layout of text and images
- Posters and advertisements - Promotional graphics and visuals
- Product packaging - Labels, bags, boxes, wrappers
- Environmental signage - Wayfinding systems, retail displays
They also design for digital mediums:
- Websites - Site layouts, UI design, banners, graphics
- Mobile apps - UI design, icons, launch screens
- Social media posts - Images, infographics, visual brand consistency
To create designs, graphic designers use programs like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.
Knowledge of printing processes and techniques is also important.
Digital media focuses on the creation of interactive content for digital platforms and the communication of ideas through digital technology.
This includes websites, mobile apps, social media, videos, animations, and other online media.
Some core skills and knowledge areas of digital media include:
- Visual design - Applying graphic design principles to digital interfaces
- Photography and videography - Creating compelling visual content
- Motion graphics - Animating text, graphics, and video
- Web development - Coding websites and applications
- User experience design - Designing intuitive digital experiences
- Search engine optimization - Improving visibility and search rankings
Digital media professionals work on projects such as:
- Websites - Design, development, maintenance, blogging
- Mobile and web apps - UI design, development, testing
- Social media - Content creation, advertising, strategy
- Digital marketing - Email, SEO, analytics
- Video - Shooting, editing, effects, animation
- Podcasting and audio content
- Interactive media - Games, eLearning courses, simulations
To create digital media, designers use software like Adobe Premiere, After Effects, Dreamweaver, and Animate in addition to creative suites like Photoshop and Illustrator.
They also utilize web and app development tools and platforms.
Graphic design and digital media share an emphasis on visual communication and creativity.
However, graphic design deals primarily with print and static media while digital media focuses on dynamic content for digital platforms.
Graphic designers work extensively with typography, print production, branding, and layouts.
Digital media professionals focus more on photography, videography, UI/UX design, web development, and interactive content.
There is considerable crossover today, as graphic designers work on digital projects and vice versa.
Both fields provide exciting creative career opportunities at the intersection of design, technology, and communication.
Understanding the core skills and knowledge needed for graphic design versus digital media can help those interested in these fields determine which creative path suits them best.