Graphic designer vs. Illustrator – What’s the difference?

As an illustrator, I often get confused with graphic designers or designers in general. I draw, so why can’t I design a flyer, logo or add text to your book cover?

The truth is that graphic design is a specific skill set that requires the mastering of different elements of design compared to illustration.

I as an illustrator will tell you all about lighting, anatomy, characters, composition, the colors of shadows and storytelling within an image. When designing a book cover or something that will require text to be on an illustration, I will take that into account in my composition and illustrate accordingly.

A graphic designer knows much more than I do about serif and sans serif fonts, kerning and tracking, line spacing, typographic hierarchy and much more. They will be able to provide a context that incorporates the illustration into your product.

In short, illustrators portray or illustrate a written text or story without using text whereas graphic designers generally take that text and make it clear and amazing to look at.

Of course, as with most things, illustrators and graphic designers exist on a spectrum. So there are people who will make you an illustration and the graphic design for it. Just realize that this is not a given. Check out this spectrum with work from SU GA, Tom Whalen and Chez Valois respectively: