Illustration and Graphic Design: What’s the Difference?

Illustration by freepik

Art and design have been developing much quicker than we ever thought possible. Both become more and more accessible, making it quite challenging for us to mistake a specific medium for one another.

Well, take a look at the illustration and graphic design, for example. Can you distinguish those two on the spur of the moment?

For them, both are more or less the same. That’s because it’s extremely easy to confuse illustration and graphic design as both mediums are strongly related to art forms.

It should come as no surprise that many artists of the 20th century moved back and forth between the creative fields of illustration and graphic design.

So, what makes them different from one another?

That’s what this post is for.

We’ll get more in-depth about the differences between illustration and motion graphics. Let’s dive in!

What Is Illustration?

Illustrations explain an idea or tell a story or provide decoration by portraying and interpreting text with visuals.

It can be done both manually with hand-dawing and digitally — which some software is involved in.

Drawings are one of the most widely used styles of illustration.

Whether it’s pencil drawings, watercolor drawings, or even charcoal drawings, you can see some illustrations mostly in magazines, books, posters, educational materials, and flyers.

In a world where everything turners digital, illustrations are created by both freehand and vector graphics. In this matter, it is still created by hand directly on the computer.

In Breadnbeyond studio, our illustrators mostly rely on Adobe Illustration to do their work in helping our clients’ video marketing campaigns. This software helps the illustrator to create very clean and scalable graphics.

As illustrations are a visual interpretation of texts, it needs to pay attention to details like expressions on characters’ faces to evoke deep emotion and connection.

What Is Graphic Design?

Graphic design is a kind of broader known type of design. It has a lot to do with composition and layout organization with text and images.

So, while the illustrations are all about creative visual interpretation, graphic designs focus on communication with their target audience.

Graphic design is basically art with a purpose — you can say that it also about solving problems visually. It combines art and technology to communicate ideas through images.

Graphic designs represent a particular idea or identity to be used in advertising and promotions.

Therefore, if you want to communicate a product or a concept in a visual way, then you’ll be using graphic design to get your message across.

The main workhouse, the software that is used most to create designs for this industry is Adobe InDesign.

Graphic design work fields such as branding, packaging, publishing, advertising, and digital design using texts, illustrations, symbols, photographs, textures, and colors.

Illustrator Vs. Graphic Designer

After you understand the basic concept of illustrations and graphic designs, we now get into the jobs that involved them: illustrators and graphic designers.

There are key differences in both graphic design and illustration job roles, and I let you know which types of projects graphic designers and illustrators work on.

That way, you can decide which career path is best for you!

Graphic Designers

A graphic designer mostly works on many marketing and promotional materials such as layout, text, arranging fonts, images, illustrations, and other graphic bits in a beautiful composition.

It focuses more on creating logos, creating marketing materials, and doing branding. They mostly service companies for the purpose of sort of marketing or advertising — where the end pieces intend to increase the sales of the product and create brand recognition.

Most of the time, graphic design work involves the creation of advertising materials, in the form of posters, flyers, business cards, logos, email marketing, etc.

Although sometimes they do a little bit of illustrator role and Photoshop as well. But their primary focus is going to be InDesign.

The internet has also offered a massive opportunity for graphic designers to bring brand awareness through digital channels. They can now make more enriching interactions between users, apps, and games by becoming user interface and experience (UI/UX) designers.

A graphic designer always bears in mind that their work should conceive and deliver brand messages.


An illustrator, on the other hand, is a person who does a lot more drawing. They love concepts and building our art, ideas, and themes.

The opposite of graphic designers who don’t necessarily have to know how to draw, their works come from an original place because they’re the initial designer.

Illustrators create manually hand-drawn or digital art (using Wacom tablet, Cintiq, iPad, or other devices) that are original to the artist. It may communicate an emotion or represent a current trend. Whether you want to deny it or not, illustrators need drawing skills.

Illustrators can create commercial work for companies’ advertising projects — for example, designing for product packaging. But they can simply be fine artists as well.

They create things like magazine spreads; they also do a lot of book cover illustrations, graphic novels, and infographics.

That’s being said; there’s still a lot of crossover between illustration and graphic design. A lot of designers kind of dabbles in both.

A video to sum up the whole points above:

That has been a quick walkthrough of illustration and graphic design. Both fields are closely related and often intertwined.

Let’s put it this way: if you see an ad with a photograph, a logo, and some striking text, this is a graphic design, and if you see an illustration artwork or some sketches, this is an illustration.

Now the question is: Can one be more important than the other?

The graphic designer isn’t more important than the illustrator, nor the other way around. Both fields have their own unique functions and areas — and still will be equally successful in conveying the idea or message if done right.

So, which job role is the best for you, an illustrator or a graphic designer?

Do you have any other interesting facts about illustrations or design graphics that you want to share with our readers? Let us know in the comment below!




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