8 ways web design is changing the graphic design industry

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Screen shot 2009-11-24 at 9.02.06 PMIn the last ten or more years, web design has become one of the most prevalent design professions and skills in the world. It’s nearly impossible to be hired as a new graphic designer these days without having some sort of background in web design. Dare I say, the world will one day reach the point where print design is being influenced more by web design than the other way around.

Web design techniques are turning traditional print design on its head. This post discusses some of the most influential ways that web design is changing the graphic design industry. After reading, please let us know what you think by sharing your thoughts in the comments.

Motion and Interactivity

20 years ago or more, the most interaction with an advertisement or printed material that the user would have is to read or, at most, fill out a form to mail in. Now, designers have to consider not only aesthetics but also user experience. In fact, UX (user experience) has become a science and has opened up a whole new career pathway. UPDATE: Now with the addition of the iPad and other tablet devices, designers have to consider interactivity with a mouse versus fingertips. Do you think the iPad will change the way you design?

Terminology/Name changes

Seasoned graphic designers were trained with terms like leading and kerning. With the addition of web design to our skill set, we now identify the same principles with different names in the CSS: line-height and letter-spacing. They mean the same thing, but we must be able to speak the language from both directions. I believe the difference will one day be erased and graphic design will inherit terms like line-height and letter-spacing. What other soon-to-be-outdated terms can you add?

Screen shot 2009-11-24 at 9.05.02 PMFont restrictions

While this is getting better, there are still a limited number of fonts available for web designers. Tools like sIFR are making this problem more tolerable, but, generally speaking, typography is much more limited when working on the web than when working in print design.

Template designs

In years past, a printed magazine used to have a unique layout on each page. Now, when designing for the web, we use the same layout on most of our pages. We have even created technologies like PHP which make it extremely easy to create a template web site or blog design. There are some exceptions like Jason Santamaria, a magazine-designer-turned-web-designer who creates a customized stylesheet for each blog post.

Screen shot 2009-11-24 at 9.04.03 PMResolution considerations

In the world of print design, an inch is an inch. While some would argue that on the internet, a pixel is a pixel but the problem comes when screen resolutions change. Web designers have to constantly deal with changes in technology. It’s not enough to design a web site any more–you now have to consider what the site will look like on large, high resolution screens, medium-size laptops, cell-phone screens, and more.

When printing, you can go to the printer’s and assure your design turns out just like you had intended. When designing for the web, you cannot be present every time a visitor opens your web page.

You also have to have the ability to design a piece as small as 16px by 16px (favicon size) or smaller. These minuscule sizes weren’t even dreamed of by print designers in years past.

Nearly unlimited resources

Getting a degree in graphic design is a great asset to any designer. When it comes to staying up to date on techniques, the web has nearly unlimited resources: articles, free images, tutorials, etc. Top designers now blog about their work and share with the rest of us–which helps us all improve together.

File sizes and loading times

If you posted a printed piece online, it would take forever to download. Graphic designers who strive to become web designers, therefore, have to learn good principles of optimization, file size, page-load times, etc. If a page doesn’t load quickly, it doesn’t matter how beautiful it is, people won’t stick around to see it.

Screen shot 2009-11-24 at 9.07.08 PMCoding

Here’s an obvious one. Once you design a page in photoshop your work isn’t even halfway finished. You then have to excercise your left brain and code the site to make it readable. Oh and on top of that, it should validate. It’s also possible you have to build a wordpress theme or use other technologies to give your client what they want.

What else would you add?

These are a few differences I have noticed the web design world has brought to the graphic design industry. What other differences have you noticed? Please share in the comments.

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

  • http://www.gushindesigns.com Dennis Guten

    Preston, I would also add the issue of print designers working in CMYK and the web being mostly RGB colors. This presents an issue when certain colors are critical and specified for logos, headers and other graphics.

    • http://graphicdesignblender.com Preston Lee
      Excellent Point! I hadn’t thought about that but it is definitely an issue amongst graphic and web designers.
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  • http://john.onolan.org JohnONolan

    Good post – and a nice write up. It’s worth noting that sIFR is pretty much dead – TypeKit, Cufon, and @font-face are the future of web typography, and that’s a fairly bright and unrestricted future to say the least!

  • http://photoshopcandy.com Aaron

    Interesting points – Good Luck with this blog. First time I am reading it.

  • http://www.squiders.com Website Design Maidstone

    As font options increase in web design we’ll see a coming together of the 2 disciplines

  • http://www.conk.nl Debby

    Graphic designers need to keep usability and accessibility in mind. They sometimes forget that it’s not all about pretty pictures and that people just want their information quick. For example: no main menu at the bottom of the page, just because that looks so cool and different.

  • http://bloggerarticle.com/ Blogger Article

    This is a very interesting suggestions and I really like your information thank you.

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  • http://www.rivermarketart.com SD Designs

    “staying up to date on techniques”

    The best thing any designer can do for themselves. Degree’s are good, but ability is a must.

  • Himangshu Das

    Great Post! and good write-up. Well Done!!!

  • http://www.traceygrady.com/blog Tracey Grady

    Hi Preston, this is a very interesting topic and one I’ve been thinking about myself for a while now. Your post makes a good guide for a print designer planning to move into web design.

    the world will one day reach the point where print design is being influenced more by web design than the other way around.

    I believe we’re at that point already, by the way.

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  • http://wordpressblogger.net George Manlangit

    I would agree with Debby. I’m no web designer but usability is definitely the one that comes first in my mind.

    Just take print outpout as an example. There are still a ton of sites out there where the print stylesheet shows up differently than the screen output.

  • http://evelt.com joel k.

    hay good post

    if i may I’ll add this:
    graphics used to be done by amateurs (via ms word LOL)
    but web design changed the dynamic a bit,
    you have to hire a pro to get it right.

    this is good news for graphic artists because now they are being hired as well and their work is being valued and paid for

  • juday

    indeed, today there are so many things to be considered in web designing. Unlike before, recently, there are so many restrictions and intricate things to be applied.

    website design

  • Freek

    1. A webdesign is not static, but dynamic
    With a book, magazine or flyer, a final design is just that: final. Once it is printed, the customer cannot ask for changes until a reprint opportunity comes along. With a website, a ‘final’ design will usually be changed a couple of times before AND after the site has been put live. Not only because customers ask for changes, but also because of new requirements by the changing soft- and hardware. So webdesign demands greater flexibility.

    2. The related problem is the fact that you do not need a designer to change the design. Most printers demand a certified PDF, so you need someone (usually a designer) with Adobe or Quark to deliver it. On the web, anybody with Notepad can change HTML or CSS, thus changing (or messing up) the design. Apart from making your design ‘idiot-proof’, there is not much a designer can do about this.

  • http://graphicdesignblender.com Preston Lee
    @JohnONolan – Thanks for the quick update. I have heard of a few of these but haven’t taken the time to get in depth work done with them I will certainly look into it.

    @Aaron Thanks for visiting. Hope to see you back soon!

    @Debby I think you are exactly right. Design has never been about strictly being “pretty” it’s all about solving problems and making life easier/better.

    @SD Designs Also a good addition. Thanks.

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  • http://designthoughtfortheday.blogspot.com Ted Rex

    As an “old school” print design/art director, it amazes me who much this is all changing. I made this one of my three links of the day on my daily design blog: http://designthoughtfortheday.blogspot.com/


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  • http://www.dehuisdrukker.nl Ramon

    Hi, I think the most important change in Logo design (at least in the Netherlands) is that there is less use of Pantone colours and more CMYK. Succes with your business!Ramon

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  • http://kesslerdesign.net Karen Kessler

    As a veteran of 30 years in the graphics/illustration field I feel the pain. My husband and I have a graphics studio, and we have not only had to convert from old school mechanicals and type specs years ago, to teaching ourselves everything on the Mac. Now we are trying to keep up by learning dreamweaver, having a facebook page, and trying to keep up on linkedin and twitter (although, haven’t felt compelled to tweet yet). But we are still really good designers and illustrators and are struggling to find out how we fit in. We are both in our 50’s and going back to school holds no appeal. At this point we do the web design, go as far as we can in Dreamweaver, and collaborate with a programmer for the end result. So where do we fit in – is there still a market for graphic designers to outsource to web design companies as designers? Any place for illustrators except to sell to istock or go the publishing route? Would love some input and to hear from other older designers.

    • http://deseynerseyecreations.net Lisa Raymond

      @Karen Kessler, I’m a 12-year graphic designer in my 40’s, and I know how frustrating going electronic can be. Up until I re-entered the work force in 2002, I had a pretty good handle on coding web pages from notepad and Homesite; now I too am starting all over re-learning the basics! I feel my place is as a partner for the programmers; there are many programmers who don’t want to actually design web sites, so if you are partnered with a web programmer you can still make a powerful team. You’ve had more years experience than myself, but a suggestion: it may be time to redefine your target markets. Print isn’t dead yet, and so as long as people continue to market in print there is still good work to be done. As for Twitter, I am actually having fun meeting new people and keeping up within the industry using Twitter! I’ve also noticed when I write more in my blog, my web page views go up (you’d think I’d have caught on to this idea a while back, but I’m still learning!), so I’m re-committing to blogging at least twice a week and really making the time to work ON my business and not just IN it.

      Best of luck, I’d enjoy staying in touch with you!

  • http://deseynerseyecreations.net Lisa Raymond

    Preston, along with your comments about resolution, I’d add that graphic designers need to keep image resolution highly in mind when designing for the web. Web resolutions for images should be 72dpi, although I’ve had success using 96dpi; depending on the medium, print resolutions range from 150 (newspaper print) to 300 (magazine quality). Keeping the dpi in mind when designing goes hand-in-hand with minding your optimization.

  • http://ejournal.jak-stik.ac.id k0j0j0j0

    nice post…..
    thank you….

  • http://www.wevio.com Web Design Company New York

    Nice Writeup Preston,

    People loves to get information without reading going through all the pages. Graphic design gives you an opportunity to showcase your products or services in a best and easy way. also, you have lots of options when compared to normal web design.

  • Gloria

    Great points but I also feel that the web (digital) side of graphic design versus the print side are just going to move in very separate directions as well. With limitations that the web may bring like the variety of fonts and layout, it gives the dimensions of print a greater advantage of being able to have all these things. While print may lack a certain level of interactivity and dynamism that the digital page may bring, humans are still very tactile creatures and we enjoy having the ability to interact with the texture, weight, mass and form of a printed product like a packaging. We’re just very nostalgic beings that can’t let go of history which is why I do love both aspects of the industry so very dearly.

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  • http://www.metalcabinets.org Colton Diaz

    i am self-studying web design coz building websites is my passion,–

  • http://www.citec.in/ Website Design Delhi

    Graphic Designers do not consider web technicalities at all. We work with lot of advertising agencies who outsource their web projects to us and trust me it is very difficult to convince them as they have a totally different perspective.

  • http://www.icusa.net/ Naples Web Design

    Great information Preston,

    We all know that technology keeps on improving as days or years goes by and this is similar also when it comes to web design. There are lot of experiments being implemented and if they see that it is more improved one rather than the past, then there’s the new trend goes when it comes to web designing and a lot of people who engaged in this field will broad those ways of improving more a website.

  • http://www.notabledesign.com Montreal website design company

    This a true insightful post. Graphic design industry is being changing day by day. Everyday new measure and new concepts has been added

  • http://www.electrotechlab.com Vanessa Bennett

    web design is also a good hobby and a great job too. web design jobs pays very well.~,

  • http://www.vcinternetmedia.com webdesign Company

    Hi.. Preston
    that’s very good article.. you have mention very good tips…i am learn web design i am also working this tool.. i am so inspired with your blog.. Thanks nice post..

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  • Amber Harris

    Thank you for making this blog/site I just started school for my associate in Graphic art and I was able to use this to write a better paper.

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