Design 101: Visual Design vs. Graphic Design

Geri Mileva on Marketing Design

Graphic DesignWhat Is Graphic Design?

Graphic design is the art of practicing creative and systematic planning, problem-solving, and idea projection using visual and textual content.

What do graphic designers do?

Graphic designers use visual and physical communication through graphic elements and tools such as images, symbols, and words.

Graphic designers are artistic. They always put the art first. Graphic designers work on print designs such as posters, business cards, and brochures. They should be knowledgeable about how each element of a design translates into print.

Graphic designers are required to know the basics of design like color schemes and typography. They need to learn how to create brand assets such as logos and icons. It is important that graphic designers maintain the design’s consistency with a certain brand.

Graphic designers use tools such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe InDesign.

Where do we see graphic designs?

Graphic designs are everywhere. They can be found on social media, business websites, and even on your cereal box. Graphic designs represent the perfect combination of strategy and creativity. Good design can bring an advantage to brands in terms of marketing and advertising.

Graphic design as a “communicating device”

Graphic designers are expected to learn what appeals to their target audience. This helps them communicate effectively through their designs and deliver what their customers are looking for. Aside from Adobe, intuition and excellent communication skills make up the perfect toolkit for designers.

What Is Visual Design?

Visual design centers on the overall aesthetic of a site or material. Visual design is implemented through illustrations, color, space, fonts, typography, and other elements.

Elements of Visual Design


Lines come in different varieties: straight, curvy, wavy, thick, and thin. Lines connect two points to create space, divisions, and layouts. Lines can also guide and direct audiences, making it easier for them to navigate and follow the strategic and intended path of the designer. 


Shapes are self-contained spaces. Shapes are basically lines that are connected from point A to point B and so on. Shapes are created to provide structure, texture, and clarity.


Color is used to compartmentalize the elements of a page. It creates depth, emphasis, and organization. Color is subtly influential and plays a huge part in drawing audiences to a brand.


Type can create impactful messages from simple words or text. Type involves different fonts and font sizes, alignment, spacing, and color. Type can add emphasis to what designers are trying to communicate to audiences.

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Texture provides depth and tangibility to the designer’s work. Texture can attract or discourage attention depending on how it is used.


Form describes volumes and masses of three-dimensional figures. Two or more shapes create form. Including types, textures, and colors can further improve the form.

Principles of Visual Design

The following principles are brought together to create a cohesive design.


Unity aims to create concept and definition by bringing together all the elements of a page or material. Without unity, the design can become overwhelming, patternless, and dull.


Gestalt helps audiences perceive the general design and intention of the designer. Gestalt relies on the organization of all the elements on the page.


Space creates breathable room for the audience. It reduces disorder and noise and allows for perfect readability. Creating white space is often undervalued, but extremely important.


Hierarchy promotes organization. It helps audiences distinguish the level of significance of each element found on a page. A variety of fonts, font sizes, colors, and placements determine which elements are more important than others.


Balance allows audiences to perceive equal distribution. However, it does not always imply symmetry.


Scale refers to the range of sizes of elements. Size creates depth and influences the audience’s interest by directing their attention to certain elements. Size also shows how each element on a page relates to another.


Contrast emphasizes elements through size, color, shape, and other attributes. Contrast focuses on making these elements stand out against the rest.


Similarity focuses on making sure all the elements of the page work together and are conceptually accurate. Similarity helps the audience understand the flow and direction of the page.


Dominance secures a focal point on a page. This gives the audience an idea of what centers the page. This is done through contrasting based on size, color, shape, position, etc.

What Do Visual Designers Do?

Visual designers are simply digital engineers. They are the problem solvers of the digital and design world. They design the web content, button and image placements, word combinations, and color applications. They determine the required font and image sizes and create direction and organization for the audience.

Compared to the graphic designer, visual designers are more associated with coding and programming

Visual designers should understand how target audiences would react to the content and layout of the page. Likewise, they should understand every aspect of web design and how the elements of a page communicate with the audience. 

Essentially, a visual designer’s job is the sum of the graphic designer’s and UI designer’s jobs.

Visual designers use tools such as Mockplus, a website prototyping tool, and Adobe Dreamweaver, a website editing tool.

What Is the Difference Between Graphic Design and Visual Design?

Graphic design and visual design have many similarities, but the difference between them can be distinguished based on their individual purpose.

Visual design, also known as web design, focuses more on communicating with audiences and target readers. The purpose of visual design is to create a relationship wherein the designer incorporates the audience’s interests, opinions, and reactions to the web content.

There are a number of skills required for visual designers such as graphic design, illustration, photography, and animation, with the addition of airbrushing and image modification. These skills are notable within the communications industry.

Graphic design, on the other hand, can easily be distinguished from visual design because of its focus on creating key graphics to broaden advertising campaigns, printed materials, and websites.

Unlike visual designers, graphic designers do not deal with the finished product that the audience will experience. Their main focus is on creating graphical elements that fit the visual communication process.

Presentation Methods: Visual and Graphic Design


Graphic design generally has static elements. Visual design, in contrast, has more dynamic elements and livelier visual effects. Visual design is also responsible for allowing audiences to interact with the page.

Visual Focus

Graphic design has a more integral and intuitive visual focus, unlike visual design, which is limited by the screen of a mobile device or computer. 


Graphic design relies on the printing, along with the material and media used. Visual design, on the other hand, involves back-end developments, network signals, server applications, and other resources from third parties.

Information Carrier: Visual and Graphic Design

Material Media

Graphic design reaches audiences in a more flexible and realistic way through different materials like paper, whereas visual design uses digital screens as its basic media material.

Amount of Info

Graphic design decides the amount of information based on the physical size of the material being used. On the other hand, visual design relies on complex elements such as HTML. Visual design can carry an infinite amount of content and is therefore weightier than graphic design.

Updates and Feedback

Given that graphic design uses tangible materials, it isn’t easy—and may not even be possible—to update an existing design. Meanwhile, because it is executed digitally, visual design can accommodate instant updates and other changes based on feedback.

Spreading Information: Visual and Graphic Design

Graphic design uses more traditional forms of media, while visual design generally exists in the digital sphere. Visual or web design has the ability to spread information more quickly across the web.


  • Graphic design has a creative yet traditional approach to advertising and marketing.
  • Visual design focuses on web design, visual communication, and the audience’s continuous interaction with the elements on their screen.
  • Graphic and visual design have many similarities and are often mistaken to be the same thing. However, the two concepts are quite different, especially when viewed in terms of their purpose.


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