What’s the difference between Graphic Design and UX design? UX Question #98

Watch on YouTube

YouTube player

Listen to the podcast

Read the transcript

Scarlet from Austin, Texas, asks: What’s the difference between Graphic Design and UX design?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Scarlet. This is UX Question number 98 and I am Ben Judy.

What’s the difference between Graphic Design and UX design? Oh, how we wish more people understood this distinction! Nothing rankles a UX designer quite like being asked to “make the logo bigger,” as though that’s all we’re there for.

I’ll give you five differences.

The focus is different. Back in episode 95 I explained that service design is broader in focus than UX design. Well, UX design is broader in focus than graphic design, the latter of which focuses on creating visual elements and aesthetics, such as logos, typography, and illustrations. UX design can include these elements, but also focuses on enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and overall interaction experience of a product or service.

The exclusively visual nature of graphic design is different than UX, which applies to all the senses. Graphic designers specialize in the look and feel. It’s assumed that users are sighted users. UX design, on the other hand, strives to understand user needs, behaviors, and goals, and design solutions that meet those needs—for all kinds of users, including blind or visually impaired users.

The process of graphic design is usually quite linear: you ideate and conceptualize, then you create artifacts, and then you refining the visual assets until the client or creative director approves them. UX design processes are more complex, encompassing user research, ideation, prototyping, testing, and iteration—and UX design is just messier, in general.

The tools and hard skills of UX design and graphic design have diverged over the years. When I began as a UX designer, I did high fidelity mockups in pretty much the same software graphic designers would use: Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Today, UX designers use more specialized tools and techniques for wireframing, UI prototyping, and usability testing.

Collaboration is different. UX designers often collaborate closely with a wide variety of stakeholders, such as researchers, developers, and product managers, to ensure a holistic user experience. Graphic designers may collaborate with a senior art directors or marketing specialists to align the visual design with brand guidelines and objectives, but they’re generally going to have fewer stakeholders and collaborators.

Finally, graphic design can be considered a sub-discipline of UX design. Not all UX designers are graphic designers, but some are. But in order for a graphic designer to also become a UX designer, they must expand their skill set considerably, and focus on many things beyond the visual look and feel.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: Why is the UX career field so hard to get into?

Referenced in this episode:

Support UX Questions

Visit us on Patreon and check out the great perks at each level of support!

Become a sponsor

You can advertise your products or services—our promote yourself as a UX professional—by sponsoring episodes of UX Questions! See the Sponsor page for details.

Hire Ben Judy

Ben is available for consulting engagements as a workshop facilitator, mentor, design coach, and more! See the Ben page for details.