What are the differences between a Graphic Designer and Illustrator?

What are the differences between a Graphic Designer and Illustrator?

What comes to your mind when you heard the terms ‘Graphic designer’ and ‘Illustrator’?  You may think that both are a related profession. Well, in both professions, professionals do the same type of work. But, there is a fine line that separates both creative fields.

Graphic design is generally viewed as commercial art, whereas, illustration is seen as fine art. The job of a graphic designer is more about communicating with the target audience through their design, while the role of illustrator is mostly about creative interpretation.

Gone are the days, when illustration was a supreme force in the creative world. Today, graphic design has become a major part of modern culture. If you look around, you will find design everywhere. In fact, the work of a graphic designer is seen as a new form of art. Let’s have a look at some of the major differences between graphic designer and illustrator.


Graphic designing, also known as communication designing is a skill that focuses on conveying the message virtually. It can be either in physical or digital form. The main intent of the graphic designer is to achieve the objective by creating designs using symbols, images, or even with words.

An illustration is an art of visual explanation, decoration or interpretation of process, text or concept, that is being designed for integration in magazines, animations, posters, video games, films, etc.  The main intent of an illustrator is to simplify the complicated objects or concepts that are difficult to explain through texts.

Nature of work:

The job of a graphic designer is to work on a different range of products – from website design to print media to logo design. Their responsibility is to create images that can help the clients in conveying their message visually.  They are very team oriented. They often have to meet with art directors or clients to know the scope of the project. They sometimes help clients in crafting strategies to reach their target audience.

As graphic designers, illustrators can also work in different environments, but they are generally hired for creating an artwork that goes into publications like books, magazines, or on printed products like wrapping paper, stationery, etc.


In order to make career in the field of graphic designing or to grow in the industry, the graphic designer should have the following skills:

  • Creativity
  • Good communication skills
  • Understanding of the traditional as well as modern fonts
  • Familiar with the color psychology
  • Knowledge of HTML
  • Aesthetic design sense
  • Knowledge of software like Adobe Photoshop, Sketch etc.
  • Knowledge of latest technologies like AI (Artificial intelligence), VR (Virtual reality), AR (Augmented reality)

On the other hand, an illustrator should have the following skills

  • Traditional and Digital drawing skills
  • Understanding of the creative process
  • Knowledge of colour, pattern and visual texture
  • Ability to recognize attractive sources of inspiration
  • Ability to express creative ideas
  • Ability to interpret a brief and respond to client needs
  • The ability to work on multiple projects at the same time
  • Good communication skills
  • Knowledge of latest styles and trends in illustration and design


For most of the graphic designers, their computer is the paintbrush. They use a variety of design software to produce their work. An illustrator may possibly work on the computer but they are just likely to be out and around with a drawing, sketchbook, what they see or record for a later painting.


As discussed above, graphic design is viewed as commercial art and illustration is seen as fine art. Therefore the earlier one is typically used to attract and convince consumers to make a purchase, whereas the latter one focuses less on the target audience and more on the audience that may build up personal connections to their designs. The images created by an illustrator are intended to communicate an emotion, rather than convincing them to take action.

Where are they generally found:

In graphic designing, designs are created and developed through digital software. Once the designer comes up with the final design, it is printed on physical materials and posted on online platforms. Graphic designs can be found in the following places:

  • Logo
  • Websites
  • Banner ads
  • Printed marketing
  • Retail Marketing

Illustrations, on the other hand can be created using computer software, but the artists prefer to first create them using pencil, sketchbook or canvas.  Here are a few famous forms of illustration that we get to see these days:

  • Concept art: A fantasy illustration that creates a variety of theme-based interpretations.
  • Illustrations for children: Childlike, colorful drawings that narrates a story to a younger audience.
  • Comics or graphic novels: Illustrations combined with the text to narrate a story or express idea.

Working Style:

Generally, graphic designers work with companies like advertising firms, manufacturing, automobile, etc. Illustrators mostly give their services to publishing firms, comic book houses, fashion firms, or any other company related to them.  From the above points, we can see that though both the fields are overlapping, they still are different in a few aspects. They both can work independently or with each other to achieve the goals of a project. It has been said that the illustrator can be a good designer, but a good designer cannot be an illustrator. It is because illustration requires more artistic skills. However, both can work with a creative firm as well as freelancers.

Wrapping Up…

That’s all folks! We hope that with this article about What are the differences between a Graphic Designer and Illustrator? has provided you with clarity on the difference between the graphic designer and illustrator. If you’re looking to develop your skills as a designer we highly recommend skillshare, and you can learn in the comfort of your own home or office within your own time and pace with unlimited access. If you have any comments then please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

Author Bio
Henny Kel is a graphic, web designer and blogger with over 6 years experience and working as Digital marketing strategist & Brand Consultant at Designhill. He is very passionate about anything related to design and spends copious amounts of time hidden behind a book or a screen and reading about design.