Graphic Design vs. Illustration: Which Is For You?

Graphic design and illustration have gained tremendous popularity in recent years due to the advent of visual design. Although they are all forms of visual creation, these two concepts have some significant differences.

So, graphic design or illustration? Don’t skip this post if you are wondering which field to choose between graphic design and illustration.

We will discuss their core differences and similarities to help you make a wiser selection. Continue reading to find out.

What is Graphic Design?

Graphic design is creating textual and visual content such as posters, films, and photos to convey an idea or a message to the viewers. The products of graphic designing can range from simple logos to large posters or websites.

Graphic design is also a form of advertisement that helps attract buyers through eye-catching or attractive posters. As a result, the businesses will gain popularity and find more customers for their products or services.

Furthermore, graphic design also helps convey complicated ideas and lessons through the infographic. Besides commercial purposes, graphic design can be purely a method to express artistic ideas.

There are seven core elements of graphic design: color, form, line, shape, size, space, and texture. When combined with each other, these elements will make up beautiful visual content.

Graphic Designer

Types of Graphic Design

Graphic design can serve countless purposes and involve diversified fields or specifications. In the digital era, there are three basic types of graphic design, which are:

  • Website design: Creating the visual and textual content for websites, making them more beautiful and attractive to the Internet users. It can also be called website design, involving the layout, navigation, and scheme of a specific page.
  • UX design: UX or user experience design is creating and improving the graphic quality of a particular website or app. Its purpose is to increase the user’s experience and interest in these projects.
  • Motion graphics design: As its name suggests, this field focuses on creating moving visual content such as video games, films, or even game shows.

What is Illustration?

Illustrating is also a form of visual content creation, but its main aim is to help viewers understand or visualize the meaning of something. An illustration can be a drawn photo, picture, printed photo, or some visual content on the computer.

So what differentiates the common photos and arts with an illustration? If an image or picture doesn’t convey any meaning or explain some certain content, it is not an illustration.

However, an illustration doesn’t necessarily have to come with the texts. It can be a standalone image or picture, as long as it explains something to the viewers.


Types of Illustration

Similar to graphic design, the illustration also involves various fields and areas. Here are some basic types of illustration to consider:

  • Editorial illustration
  • Advertising illustration
  • Concept art
  • Fashion illustration
  • Technical (scientific) illustration
  • Infographics
  • Packaging illustration

Key Differences

Both fields involve the creation of visual art or content, but they feature different techniques and artistic purposes. This section will help you understand their differences.

Comparison table

Graphic DesignIllustration
PurposesAdvertising and branding, conveying an idea or message, Artistic purposesTo explain or visualize a concept or meaning
ToolsAdobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Canva, and Gravit DesignerHand drawing or Adobe Illustrator, software
UsesAdvertising and branding, animation, web designingImages and illustrations in books, magazines, and online articles
BackgroundDegrees in product design or web designTraining in drawing course and illustration
SkillsetAdept at utilizing illustrating software and programsGreat hand drawing skill


The illustrations usually accompany the textual content, like the images in a book, for example. It helps the readers or viewers visualize and understand the meaning of that concept easier.

Meanwhile, graphic design can serve much more purposes than that. It can help attract buyers and viewers as a form of visual advertisement or help convey an idea or message.


The illustrations can be drawn or designed manually, such as a hand-drawn picture. The manual form has been utilized by artists for many centuries, dating back to the ancient age.

However, the advent of technology with the invention of new illustrating software like Adobe illustrators has given way to digital illustration. Meanwhile, the graphic designers utilized mainly the software and programs to create the visual products.

Some common examples of graphic designing tools are Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Canva, and Gravit Designer.


Printed products are the most common form of illustrations, which you can usually see in books, magazines, blogs, or online articles. The illustrations are also prevalent in the books for children or Encyclopedias.

Meanwhile, the most popular use of graphic design is advertising and branding. The designers will create the logo, website, posters, and images to attract people’s attention and promote the popularity of the brands.

With more popularity, the brands and businesses can find more customers and increase sales of their products or services. In addition, graphic design helps make the movies, animation, and films more realistic and attractive by adding visual effects.

Background and Skill Set

To become an illustrator, you should possess in-depth knowledge and skills in drawing and illustrating. Drawing skills, both manually and digitally, are essential to an illustrator.

Meanwhile, graphic designers don’t necessarily have to possess great drawing skills, which is certainly beneficial. As the fields focus mainly on advertising and branding, the designers should have great marketing skills and knowledge.

Hand Drawing Skills Are Essential

In addition, they have to be masters in software and illustrating programs. You should have a degree in product design or website design to get a job as a graphic designer.

On the other hand, the illustrators should have taken some training in graphic design. However, drawing skills and knowledge are still critical.

Which One Should You Choose?

If you love drawing and illustrating concepts, illustration is an ideal option.

Meanwhile, you should consider becoming a graphic designer if you love designing a product, websites, and visual content for advertising.

We hope that you are satisfied with the information provided in this post.

Thank you for reading!