what is the difference between a graphic designer and an illustrator – and why does it matter to us?

Do I hire an illustrator to make a book cover?

Will a graphic designer create a logo for me?

Because both graphic designers and illustrators work with media and art, it can be challenging to know which professional to book for the job. We hope we can clear up some of the confusion and show the difference between a graphic designer and an illustrator.

A Graphic Designer:An Illustrator:
– Studies art and color theory– Studies art and color theory
– Uses layout to create a message– Uses layout to create a message
+ Focuses on making a product+ Focuses on making a piece
+ Uses software to arrange elements+ Uses art mediums to create an element
+ Might hire an illustrator to create a piece to use in a project+ Might hire a graphic designer to assemble pieces to create a product

While the chart is certainly not a one-size-fits-all for graphic designers and illustrators, we hope it captures some general characteristics. Trying to define the one or the other is like describing sriracha to someone who’s never tried it before. “It’s spicy but not that kind of spicy, ya know?” And for every rule, there’s always at least one creative who breaks it.

But GENERALLY speaking…

Graphic designers place an emphasis on communicating a message through layout. They want to make sure a product gives off the appropriate feeling. A graphic designer knows to never use Comic Sans – a lighthearted and childish font – on a funeral pamphlet.

An illustrator is able to take words on a page and create an artistic rendering (aka image) that captures its meaning. They use their unique drawing style to bring life to a custom graphic. Illustrators practice pulling what they see their mind and making it visible for all.

Although some graphic designers might be good at drawing as well, ALL illustrators are able to draw/illustrate. That’s perhaps the biggest difference between the two professions.

If you need a custom graphic, hire an illustrator. If you have a custom graphic and need it to be used as part of a product, hire a graphic designer.

what about logos?

It depends. This is a gray area as it all comes down to the style of logo you want, as well as the skills of the graphic designer or illustrator. Some graphic designers can create logos. Some illustrators can create logos. It depends on the person. If you need a logo, talk to the person you’re about to hire and find out if they’ve done similar work before. They should be able to tell you if they do or don’t create logos.

who do you use at silverabbit?

The short answer: BOTH!

However, we have graphic designers on staff, because literally every project we work on needs an emphasis on the layout. When we need an amazing, blow your mind, totally unique and originally art piece, we hire an illustrator.

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