When does a web designer need to be a graphic designer?

A client recently asked us to clarify the titles, roles and responsibilities of the various members that can make up a web team.

First let’s define some terms for this conversation:

Web Designer (sometimes called a Web Developer)

Website designers work based on a client’s needs with the client. Some of their skills include:

  • An ability to learn new software. The industry is constantly being updated.

  • Understanding operating systems, browser, and server capabilities.

  • Knowledge of various web developing technologies, layouts and codes including CSS, XML and HTML.

  • Adapt multimedia programming with CMS, PHP, JavaScript or Dreamweaver.

  • Search engine optimization techniques.

  • User experience design and interactive design

  • Marketing and communication design

  • Page layout using Photoshop or Illustrator

Web Programmer (sometimes called a Web Developer)

Web programmers are very similar to a web designer, however, they focus on the core of the site – the code and functionality requirements.  Everything a web designer knows a web programmer does too, however, they are usually less connected to the client and meetings.

A day in the life of a web programmer includes developing code, modifying code, designing new concepts and products, testing products, and explaining the concept behind a new product to a work team. Since programmers work with other team members in order to finish a project, web programmers must be able to communicate effectively while working with others.

Graphic Designer

Graphic designers are the wizards who create the visuals for the site such as logos, layouts and buttons.  They help keep the visual tone connected to the content and marketing message.  Sometimes graphic designers know some HTML or how to use CMS like Drupal or Word Press.  But don’t expect a graphic designer to be a web designer or web programmer.  You can expect them to understand the difference between web graphics and print ready art!


So now that we know the team members, we can talk about division of labor.  Web tasks really depend on the size of the design team.  The larger the team, the more you can divide the tasks/titles – the smaller the team, the more hats an individual has to wear.

So really a web designer needs to have graphic design skills in their back pocket.  If they are lucky enough to work on a team, then they can delegate the actual creation of graphics to the graphic designer, but they should know all about layout, color theory and basic Photoshop skills.

Hope that helps answer the recent question of “when should a web designer be a graphic designer?”  The Your Plan B team covers all aspects of website development from code to graphics to marketing post launch.