Illustrator Vs Graphic Designer: The Difference

illustrator vs graphic designer

What distinguishes them from one another? The method and context of use are the primary distinctions between graphic design and illustration. Illustration tends to be associated with fine art, but graphic design typically has a more commercial bent. These distinctions fade over time as more commercial ventures frequently call for dynamic and distinctive images.

Let’s examine graphic illustration, graphic design, and illustration in further detail, as well as their combination results, and consider some creative ways that graphic illustration may be applied to a future project.

Graphic Design vs. Illustration vs. Graphic Illustration

Both graphic design and illustration have distinct methods, platforms, and artistic goals. However, an illustration follows the fine art path, whereas graphic design is more often thought of as having a commercial motivation.

According to graphic designer Adrian Shaughnessy, “Graphic design’s ability to deliver explicit messages makes it a major (if little recognized) force in the modern world: it is embedded in the commercial infrastructure. Illustration, on the other hand, with its woolly ambiguity and allusive ability to convey feeling and emotion, makes it too dangerous to be allowed to enter the corporate bloodstream.”

More so than illustrators, graphic designers maintain anonymity because they aim to convey others’ ideas through classic design elements. However, illustrators are frequently sought after for their unique aesthetic and artistic skill sets.

What is Graphic Design?

Communication design is another name for graphic design. Graphic design is a career that involves employing strategically placed visual elements to solve issues and communicate ideas. Typography, images, color scheme, and shape are all included. Graphic design communicates with its intended audience, whereas illustration concentrates on creative interpretation.

Graphic design is primarily influenced by marketing and branding strategies and is all about communicating with a target audience.

There are many distinct styles of graphics design in both the print and digital space. Print graphic design includes, but is not limited to, brochures, business cards, and posters. Web design, newsletters, and graphics for social media are a few examples of digital graphic design.

Visual identity is a design that expresses a brand’s personality, story, and emotion using logos, typography, color palettes, imagery, and style rules to ensure consistency throughout all other designs.

What Do Graphic Designers Do?

Using design software, a graphic designer creates visual concepts, typically for commercial use. Although it’s not necessary to be able to draw to be a graphic designer, sketching down concepts before using a computer to create a design might be helpful.

A graphic designer can create logos, brand identities, posters, packaging, advertisements, and web banners. Combining attractive artwork and words to convey a message or promote a product.

graphic designer vs illustrator

Most graphic designers work on diverse projects and provide commercial designs for firms, including ads, sales brochures, etc.

The goal of a graphic designer is to reach the target audience with a message. A thoughtful selection of design components like hues, typefaces, images, symbols, and more are used to achieve this.

When creating a logo design, website design, or other graphic designs, a graphic designer carefully considers the client’s instructions. Additionally, the designer will research the client’s industry.

Graphic designers must be proficient in graphic design programs, even though not all illustrators are.

What is Illustration?

An illustration is a picture that tells a story or goes along. They can be both explicative and just ornamental. Illustrations can be created manually or digitally in many forms. It can accompany either a literary or a commercial story.

There are illustrations everywhere, but published media in particular. This is because books and magazines frequently employ the discipline to go along with a specific text. However, there are illustrations in the digital space as well.

Illustrative paintings often use acrylic, gouache, and watercolor to tell stories. Watercolor illustrations tend to have a soft, feminine vibe to them. Because gouache dries quickly and has a bit more richness, commercial artists frequently employ it for comics and posters. Acrylic is simple to use, adaptable, and can be applied to various surfaces.

The freehand method, such as drawing on a tablet, can be used to make digital illustrations. Or, vector graphics might be used to create them (colors and shapes that mimic an illustrative style).

They produce digital images by using programs for drawing and art. Instead of design school, most illustrators attended art school. As a result, illustrators are skilled in sketching and drawing their concepts.

Illustrations have the unique freedom to communicate ideas through vivid storytelling, even with no supporting words. As a result, it’s a potent instrument for arousing feelings and creating a bond with your target audience.

Custom illustration is an excellent method to dress up your website, especially if you own a startup and need branding and design badly.

What Does an Illustrator Do?

An illustrator produces visual works. However, these images don’t demand that viewers focus on a particular part of the canvas. The entire canvas is visible to the viewers, not just a specific image or picture. These images have been produced to go with something.

An illustrator must use caution, though. The illustrator does not intend to draw the viewers’ direct attention to the entire artwork. The audience isn’t diverted from the illustrator, though. The main illustration has personality, thanks to the illustrator. However, the only goal is to draw attention to it. The illustrators do not want people to pay attention to it.

In some instances, fine artists who paint on canvas or even make sculptures and ceramics are also illustrators.

It’s crucial to get started practicing as soon as you can if you want to develop into a skilled illustrator. If your school provides any art classes, enroll in them, and use any internet tools you can to hone your skills. Your skill sets can also be developed by receiving training in various media, such as pencil, ink, and paint. In addition, many schools provide studio art undergraduate programs, and some even award bachelor’s degrees.

What is Graphic Illustration?

Graphic illustration includes elements of both graphic design and traditional illustration. Graphic illustration results when we combine the two, although graphics design focuses more on communication, and illustration leans more toward fine art. The best of both worlds are present.

To arrange and showcase original artwork, graphic illustration uses the classic design elements of color, form, and layouts.

Graphic illustrations, like graphic design and illustration independently, aid in visual idea expression, concept clarification, product sales, educational outreach, and promotion. A flyer, business card, fabric, publication, commercials, packaging, posters, and websites are just a few places you can find them. They can use any method, including sketching, printmaking, and graphical representations of data and statistics.

The skill set of graphic illustrators includes painting, drawing, art history, digital illustration, business, and marketing. They call for both aesthetic talent and imaginative thought to communicate abstract ideas clearly and effectively.

Let’s distinguish the difference as we break down graphic designer vs. illustrator below:

Graphic Designer vs. Illustrator

The goal of their work is the main distinction between a graphic designer and an illustrator. Graphic designers handle a client’s communication. Most of the time, their unique identities, viewpoints, and ideas are irrelevant. They want to provide information rapidly using images that clearly show the client. While illustrators may have a similar function, clients frequently employ them for their distinctive concepts and aesthetics. Associating with the illustration’s message or meaning may be advantageous to clients.

Both graphic designers and illustrators work with photos to create visual displays for clients. However, while illustrators may draw or paint images and upload them to create digital copies, graphic designers use computer software to develop layouts.

It gets problematic because some graphic designers are experts in creating illustrations. However, not everyone who works as a graphic designer is also an illustrator.

So when should you use an illustrator, and when should you engage a graphic designer? Or is graphic design also included in the illustration?

Both graphic design and illustration have their own set of unique methods, mediums, and artistic objectives. Despite their frequent overlap, there are a few glaring distinctions between them. Check out the difference between Photoshop and Illustrator.

Authorship vs. Anonymous

Artists are illustrators. As a result, they are frequently sought after due to their artistic abilities and sense of style. However, a graphic designer would prefer anonymity, whereas an illustrator is more likely to sign their work.

Let’s examine two instances. First, a children’s book relies extensively on original illustrations to complement the narrative. The illustrator’s name is frequently mentioned on the book’s cover or inside.

A flyer advertising a sale at a particular business will identify the store and perhaps the brand of the discounted goods. However, the graphic designer’s name never appears in the final product.

Artistic vs. Commercial

Illustration and graphic design each have distinct motivations. Simply defined, illustration takes the creative path, whereas graphic design follows a business one.

Who Should You Involve?

Let’s look at how you might employ illustration or graphic designing for your business now that you know their main distinctions.

Graphic Design for Your Business

Do you wish to use a variety of visual components to explain or promote a concept? The solution is graphic design. A graphic design professional can assist you in effectively communicating your message.

A graphic designer may improve your brand in various ways—for example, visual identity and marketing material.

Illustrations for Your Business

Do you want creative illustrations created especially for your project? Then you should think about working with an illustrator instead of a graphic designer.

Your illustration will undoubtedly capture the interest of your audience because it is unique and tailored to your tastes. Other project ideas that an illustrator could assist you with are; print media cover, merchandise, and packaging. Find, why graphic design is important for businesses.


Now that you know the main distinctions between a graphic designer and an illustrator, consider answering the following questions regarding these two careers.

What is the Salary Difference and Job Outlook Between Both Graphic Designers and Illustrators

In the United States, a graphic designer makes an average salary of $47,684 per year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual compensation in the US for an illustrator is $48,680.

Can I Be a Graphic Designer Without a Degree?

Yes, you can work as a graphic designer without a college degree, as a portfolio typically has more weight than a transcript. However, it would be best if you had a degree to be considered for a higher role as a creative director.

In Conclusion

Whether you need a graphic designer or an illustrator on board will depend on your project. You won’t end up in a position where you hire the incorrect individual if you are aware of the distinctions.

Do you want to use the advantages of both disciplines or play it safe? Fortunately, graphic illustration is constantly available.

All Time Design is a design service that does both. With its subscription-based packages ranging from $699 to $1999 monthly, you get the best of unlimited graphic illustrations design.

September 16, 2022
10 min read
31 reads

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