7 Reasons Why Graphic Designers Need to Know the Basics of Web Design

by Alabaweh Baweh -
computer monitor displaying website design elements on desk with sticky notes, glasses, mug, and potted plant

Graphic design is a complex field. You always have the ability to learn more, get better, and improve your skills to make yourself more marketable to potential clients. 

And yet, in a competitive industry, even that might not be enough. You might need to branch out to broaden your skillset in order to get better jobs, higher credibility, and more reliable freelance work.

For outsiders, it's easy to confuse graphic design and web design. But designers know just how different the two fields truly are. And yet, learning the basics of the latter can help you actually become more successful in the former. Consider these 7 reasons why, as a graphic designer, you need to know the basics of web design.

1) Greater Knowledge Base

Building onto your existing skillset is never a bad idea. Even though they might seem similar, learning the basics of web design actually comes with a number of new skills and abilities that expand that knowledge base:

  • The ability to design dynamically
  • The need to work with small file sizes and limited typography options
  • Basic coding knowledge 

We'll discuss some of these components in more detail below. Broadly, that greater knowledge base helps you develop as a professional, which comes with more opportunities down the road. 

2) More Design Credibility

professional woman sitting a desk with laptop while writing in notebook

Just as a greater knowledge base relates to your own personal and professional growth, it matters for your clients as well. They love working with professionals who can apply their skills not just in a narrow aspect, but the greater surrounding field as well.

The ability to design for the web looks great on a resume or online freelance profile and portfolio. It makes you more attractive to clients looking for any number of design jobs, especially if they're seeking professionals for long-term engagements.

Imagine, for instance, an engagement for digital banner ads on behalf of a client. The skills required for web design, such as designing more dynamically or with smaller file sizes, apply almost 1:1 in this line of work as well. It's a straight line from skills in one area translating to the other.

3) Greater Scope of Work

Basic web design skills mean that you can begin to look for web design assignments. The graphic design industry is immensely competitive. Whether you're just trying to break into the industry or have already established a foothold, finding freelance work is not always easy.

That ability expands once you begin to add different types of jobs to your portfolio. The greater scope of work you can access as a result helps you build a more diverse, profitable client base. The ever-changing nature of technology and digital marketing means there will always be businesses looking for a better website. You might be the designer that helps them accomplish that feat.

4) The Ability to Design Around Limitations

As mentioned above, web designers have to work with common limitations in aspects like small file sizes and limited typography. Even in your 'regular' graphic design world, these skills can come in immensely handy as you seek and execute work for your clients.

Simply put, these types of limitations force you to get creative. You might not always be able to use that high-res photo or custom-downloaded font. Your ability to work around these restrictions allows you to attack common design problems (like limited space or color) in similar ways to still deliver high-quality designs for your clients.

5) A Dynamic Focus

Web design is more limited than print design in some aspects, but actually stands out positively in others. The design is, at its core, dynamic, adjusting based on screen size and in spots actually bringing with it the ability for animation. It also tends to be made up of multiple, separate components rather than a single print or digital piece.

Again, this different approach to core design principles enables you to think outside the box. It allows you to view even simple design processes (like a print brochure) from a different perspective, taking unique approaches that broaden your portfolio and make your work stand out from other designers.

6) Ongoing Job Availability

For freelancers, web design and print design both tend to be project-based. What's different, though, is the way in which these projects tend to play out:

  • Print design is shorter, based on single pieces, and static. Once printed, the project is complete.
  • Web design is dynamic not just in design, but in project size. A single project takes longer, and even after initial go-live, adjustments can be made to improve the design over time.

Accepting some web design jobs, then, helps you secure a varying set of clients that build a more consistent stream of income. The result is both a higher degree of security and a greater ability to manage jobs of varying length throughout their life cycle.


7) Potential for Higher Pay

Acquiring basic web design skills will benefit you financially. That's partially for the reasons mentioned above; a broader skillset allows you to attract more clients, guaranteeing a more consistent and higher stream of income. At the same time, the benefit also extends to the pay level of the individual job.

Web designers tend to be paid more than the average graphic designer. Web designers tend to charge $75 per hour, which is much higher than the $29 average pay per hour for graphic designers as a whole. The complexities mentioned above play a large part in that. For you, that means acquiring these basic skills allows you to take on jobs with higher pay.


The Case for Diversified Skills as a Graphic Designer

Graphic design is a large and competitive field. Any freelancer knows how difficult it can be to find consistent work at a pay level that makes sense for you and your income needs. By expanding your skillset, you can find more and better jobs.

That's especially true for web design, which brings a different dynamic to your design approach and capabilities as a whole. At least a basic level of core knowledge and experience can help you maximize your opportunities, building a better (and more profitable) client portfolio over time.