Untangling the Difference: Graphic Art vs. Graphic Design

While graphic art and graphic design will always be close allies, there are distinctive differences that set them apart. This generally stems from the artist's intentions and in many ways, it is a simple case of context. The goal of an artist is not necessarily in line with the goal of a graphic designer and the origin of their work can come from polar opposite sources. These two disciplines differ in their aims, execution, and often even their creative expression.

Let’s dig into these two fascinating worlds and uncover their distinguishing traits including an analysis of how they contribute to the creative environment in their own ways. We welcome you to investigate the potential of developing your talents through our expert-led graphic design courses as you travel this voyage of discovery.

Understanding Graphic Art

Graphic art is an artistic medium that is born from imagination and creativity. It is a fine artists practice and their aim is to express their own imaginings through illustration, drawing or painting. A graphic artist uses this medium to tell their story and to communicate through images. Just like an oil painter or a sculptor, is it the artist's perspective and the artist only.

This form of expression is purely aesthetic and each piece produced comes from deep inside the artist’s own inner complexities. Graphic art has the freedom to become whatever the artist wants it to be and they can experiment with any materials, palettes or styles they wish.  It is the artist's unique individuality and perspective that is at the centre of graphic art. This freedom means that graphic art does not need to live within the constraints of any prescribed diktat and can contribute to the artworld without restraint.

Graphic Design explained

The fundamental difference between graphic design and graphic art is that graphic design is focussed on a visual solution to a “problem”. It is a discipline that is creative and imaginative yet lives within the artistic boundaries of functionality and adaptability. Graphic designers primarily create logos, brochures, websites, advertising, and other materials to meet the needs of a client and target audience. When a graphic designer arrives at a project, their first task is to solve the problem. They will work from a client’s brief which will have specific targets and directives. The main goal of a graphic designer is communication but it differs from an artist’s goal in that it must communicate a client's message, and not necessarily  their own.

It is often a priority of a graphic designer to generate clarity and simplicity. Their designs must clearly, concisely and consistently communicate a message. This also needs to be adapted to many platforms, shapes and sizes ensuring the brand's identity is easily identifiable therefore encouraging brand loyalty.

There is also a matter of the user or viewer. A graphic designer must always think of the user especially when working digitally and designing UX or UI.

Overlapping Elements: Bridging the Gap

In practice though, there are many areas where both graphic art and design will overlap. 

Both fields place a great value on aesthetics. They are visual artforms and their job, whether commercial or artistic, is to garner attention and tell a story.  They are also both dependent on creativity and creative thinking. Ideas need to come to life and although graphic design is very much a solutions oriented discipline, artists also face problems they too must solve visually.

Many fields of the arts have turned digital using Adobe Creative Suite, for example, which has become a mainstay for both artists and designers alike.

Different Paths, One Goal

The fundamental difference between graphic art and graphic design is that a graphic designer is commissioned by a brand or a company to market a product of service. This involves guidelines, rules and often means the designer must follow an already established style guide. In general, a graphic artist does not need to adhere to a client’s brief. But one fundamental commonality of both disciplines is their shared goal to elicit an emotional response from their audience.

Graphic art and graphic design may have their differences, but in many ways, they live happily side by side in harmony. Together they contribute to a world that is not only more visually interesting to live in, but also emotionally and intellectually. Clever designs and fascinating illustrations are the beauty of being human and the very things that enrich our daily lives. If graphic design is your passion, our academy is here to help you nurture your inner creative and make your own mark on this fluid and fascinating industry. Our courses provide a well-rounded and comprehensive learning experience. Our tutors are professionals in the field of graphics and will guide you from the ground up.

We cover the fundamentals of graphic design and provide a solid foundation in design concepts, elements & principles, colour theory, typography and more. You can also decide for yourself if you want to explore CAD and digital design. Our tutors can steer you towards various editing software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. The choice is yours. Perhaps you want to know more about brand identity and marketing collateral? We have got you covered.

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Written by: Fiona Byrne

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