The Difference Between Illustration and Graphic Design
Knowing the difference between illustration and graphic design is key for any business owner looking to hire help with their marketing needs.
Many graphic illustrators on gig sites such as Fiverr market themselves as graphic designers, but actually lack the skills or education needed to be a true graphic designer. That being said, many educated graphic designers are bound by the rules of design and lack the creativity and freedom to act as an illustrator. So what’s the difference?
What is an Illustrator?
Illustrators create works of art that turn an idea or subject into something visual. In short, illustrators create art pieces, or digital drawings. It can be as simple as clip art and stock images or as complex as digitally painting the illustrations in a children’s book or graphic novel.
Many illustrators have art degrees (or some kind of classical art training) and work with real-world tools such as pencils, brushes, paints, etc. at the beginning of their project. Then, that work will be rendered digitally with finishing touches or completely recreated in software like Photoshop, Illustrator, or ArtRage.
Illustration and graphic design are great ways to portray emotions and feelings in images that you can’t get from photography. For instance, you can photograph a bumble bee, but it’s impossible to capture a joyful bumblebee. Illustration can create a bumblebee laughing, dancing, or smiling to convey joy. Many can do it dang realistically, too. Evoking that feeling or emotion is important to marketing for any company, so they need an illustration for their collateral rather than just photography.
Illustrators do not work with text, layout, typography, colors, or image manipulation.
They can, however, get you an amazing piece of artwork to use in the many facets of your business.
What is a Graphic Designer?
Graphic designers work with graphics as well as text and other design elements to create an all-encompassing design. When working with a logo, they’ll combine illustrations with text and shapes to create a single piece. The same concepts apply to designing apparel, brochures, fliers, banners, signage, you name it.
Graphic designers work with (or even create their own) fonts, colors, composition, and layout. They understand visual hierarchy, design concepts, and branding to deliver comprehensive, cohesive designs.
Back in the day, designers physically cut and pasted different things together to be copied and printed in the print shops to create magazines, fliers, etc. Nowadays, pretty much all graphic design is done digitally, using tools like Illustrator or InDesign.
Illustration and Graphic Design
Illustration and graphic design go hand in hand in many companies. In fact, many agencies will have illustrators and graphic designers on staff to comprehensively cover each of their clients’ needs. Others will require their designers to be trained in both. Others still only specialize in one or the other.
Regardless, companies can benefit from illustrators as well as graphic designers when working out their marketing strategy. Both have their place, especially when working with social media marketing or growing a following. Audiences connect well with illustrations and don’t always need a full-layout spread for every post.
A Few Notes
It’s important to know the difference between illustration and graphic design when commissioning work, especially on gig platforms such as Fiverr that don’t differentiate between the two. Self-taught artists and designers may not also know the technical differences and market themselves incorrectly.
Because of this, it’s vital to see someone’s portfolio and see the variety of work that they’ve done. If it’s only a series of drawings (or worse, includes a ton of stock graphics or clip art), they’re not the right person to design branded marketing collateral.
Conversely, if they’re someone who exclusively works with businesses on branding and marketing materials, they’re probably not the right fit if you’re looking for a digitally rendered painting of your grandmother.
It’s worth noting that many self-taught artists also do not understand the file types necessary to use your logo/content for literally anything. Getting an image embroidered, for instance, requires a vector file rather than a PNG. This means that if your artist works exclusively in Photoshop, they need to understand that logos come in vector format. Vector is needed to work with production of those files. It’s possible to do great work in a program such as Photoshop, and even to save them correctly, you just need to know that’s a thing. And so do they.
The Bottom Line
While illustration and graphic design are closely related, they’re not the same thing. Neither one is better or worse than the other, but each is better suited to some things. For your business needs, you need someone who is trained in layout and design rules as well as art. Here at Polarity Design Team, we’re trained graphic designers rather than illustrators. We’re able to create logos, graphics, and any marketing materials you need for cohesive, all-encompassing designs. Let us know how we can help next.