Graphic Design vs Illustration

Graphic Design vs Illustration: Knowing the Key Differences

In today’s day and age, creative visuals are of utmost importance to a brand. It gives them a chance to communicate with their target audience. Though there are a vast number of graphics readily available on the internet today, they need a certain differentiation to thrive and create a unique brand identity for themselves. With art and design developing so quickly, it can be pretty confusing to understand if they need a graphic designer, illustrator or visual artist. Well, though the job of all the three are the same, there is a difference in the way ideas are conveyed. 

Through this blog, we aim at discussing the key differences between an illustrator and graphic designer. 

What is Graphic Design & What does a Graphic Designer do?

As the name implies, graphic design involves merging visual elements to solve a problem. It involves layout, organisation, line, shape, topography and colour. In the print as well as the digital world, graphic designers are in demand. They’re in charge of creating various marketing collateral including posters, brochures, flyers, pamphlets and business cards. On the digital side, they’re responsible for web design, social media posts and other graphics.

When you compare graphic design to illustration, the former is mainly for commercial purposes whereas the latter takes the fine art route. Another factor that differentiates the two is that a graphic designer’s work is mainly influenced by marketing and branding as they have to create graphics based on a company’s specific target audience. 

A graphic designer uses software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel Draw, Flash, Dreamweaver, and so on. Before he/she starts work, it is very important for them to understand the client brief as they design for a specific target group. 

What is Illustration & What does an Illustrator do?

An illustration is a visual portrait of a text or story. Another way to put it across is that it helps you interpret text with visuals. It can be executed both manually as well as digitally. Illustrations include drawings, paintings and crafts. In general, illustrators focus more on the creative side of things such as colour, texture and shapes. Unlike graphic designers, illustrators are mainly involved with storytelling. Through monochrome drawings and watercolour paintings, illustrators are able to evoke powerful emotions in an audience. 

You often see illustrations in newspapers (in the editorial section), magazines, posters, animations, video games and films. 

To become a graphic designer, you need to learn certain software and perfect yourself in a few skills. On the other hand, to become an illustrator, you need to love art and have knowledge of art forms. It involves a lot of research and they even spend hours drawing their creative inspiration from various mediums and artistic routes. 

Another key difference is that graphic designers usually create work for a particular brand because of which quite often their work goes uncredited. Illustrators usually sign their work once it’s done. For example, in newspaper comics, you will always notice a signature at the bottom of the illustration.

Graphic Design or Illustration – Which Course to Pick?

Whether you choose a certificate course in graphic designing or illustration, the choice is entirely yours. If you study graphic design, you will learn the principles of communicating information through visual art. While you will learn about various design elements and mediums, you will also learn software including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and so on.

If you choose to do a certificate course in illustration, you will specifically learn how to use art to tell a story. It focuses on drawing tools that will convey your message on a book, story or website. 

Though both the programmes are artistically inclined, they are different in their intent. The programme learning outcomes and job prospects also differ. For example, graphic designers create artwork for print and digital. They make sure a brand message comes out visually. Graphic designers can work as freelancers or with a company. They work closely with marketers, content writers, art directors and product designers. Illustrators usually work with publishers including newspapers, magazines and books. In today’s digital space too, illustrators who can create graphics for websites and other digital assets are in demand too. 


Whether you want to pursue illustration or graphic design, the choice is yours. If you like sketching or drawing, illustration is a better choice whereas if you like creating comprehensive designs that convey a brand message, consider a career in graphic design. 

If you’re looking to establish a career path as a graphic designer or illustrator, you can pursue a diploma in graphic designing and web designing from Vogue Institute of Design. You will learn about typography, fonts, colours and layouts that can come together to create visually-appealing design. On completion of the course, a few job roles you can consider are that of a graphic designer, creative art director, multimedia designer, digital illustrator and web designer. 

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