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UI Design vs. Graphic Design

career change graphic design ui design Mar 18, 2023

When you first hear the terms UI design and graphic design you may think they are the same thing. Despite both careers sharing similar qualities such as utilizing technical design and creative visual arts to complete amazing products for their users they actually are quite different. The main difference is that UI design focuses more on the functionality of the product versus graphic design which focuses on the brand message of the product. Today we will be exploring the differences between UI and graphic design to help you better understand the field and select the right path for your career.

What are UI Design and Graphic Design? 

There are a lot of misconceptions out there that UI design and graphic design are the same jobs but they’re wrong. Although UI and graphic designers share some similar skills and job responsibilities there are several differences. Below we will go over what UI design and graphic design are, the similarities and differences between the two, and what skills are transferable from graphic to UI design. 


UI Design

Generally speaking UI design (or User Interface) tends to be more technical due to its general goal of focusing on the operability of each product. UI designers are busy designing icons, menus, and other interactive elements of a product while simultaneously collecting feedback from users and stakeholders to address pain points. Designers truly take into consideration how a user might navigate a page differently and are constantly creating and editing drafts of their work until the final product is approved by stakeholders and the team. 

UI designers also create style guides to ensure proper design elements and rules are being followed. A large part of UI design is observing how each piece of a product interacts with each others and how unique combinations of user actions affect the product as a whole. As a UI designer, you may be working with websites, mobile apps, or any digital product. Part of being a UI designer is the creativity you get to bring to the role when designing details such as display, selecting fonts, choosing color schemes, and creating illustrations and icons. 

Additional tasks that UI designers complete are:

  • Prototyping and user testing
  • Flow and navigation 
  • Building wireframes
  • Using tools such as Sketch, Invision, Framer, Slack, or Marvel


Graphic Design

On the other hand, despite also being quite creative in their work, graphic designers focus more on creating visual content that communicates a certain message to the audience. Graphic designers may create design elements for either print or web publications that remain consistent with their company’s brand and overall message. Daily tasks for a graphic designer may include setting up files for printing, designing brochures or posters, creating social media graphics, and designing ads or logos. When graphic designer creates a product they also have to apply a company’s brand colors and fonts. 

For example, think of the social media app Instagram. Its app has distinct colors, texts, and fonts and it is easily recognizable worldwide. When creating apps such as Instagram graphic designs have to remain consistent with what they create and that includes using specific colors, texts, and fonts. Other tasks that graphic designers are responsible for include:

  • Evaluating design briefs and establishing requirements
  • Creating project timelines and budgets
  • Planning and executing visual campaigns
  • Ensuring final designs are aesthetically pleasing and on-brand
  • Using design tools such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Sketchbook



Despite their many differences both UI and graphic design share multiple similarities. For starters, both designers work within a team environment to provide feedback to one another and create an awesome product. They communicate with others frequently on different topics such as pain points, edits that need to be made, or creative skills needed for their roles. UI and graphic designers use technical design and creative visual arts to optimize their products and must follow requirements set forth by their employers and stakeholders. 

UI and graphic design jobs require at least a bachelor's degree in majors such as design, computer science, or graphic design. Many companies look for skill sets that graphic and UI designers both exhibit such as strong communication skills, collaboration with others, problem-solving, and time management skills. Considering the composition of layouts, color schemes, spacing, imagery, and typography are things that UI and graphic designers think about in their roles. 


There are a few common differences between UI and graphic design in terms of salary, work tasks, work environment, and future job outlook. UI designers typically stick to producing digital products such as mobile apps, e-commerce sites, website landing pages, and blogs. Graphic designers, however, may work on digital or print materials (i.e. brochures, posters, and book covers). 

Graphic designers may utilize design software or illustrate on paper to create their products and are knowledgeable about certain trends to appeal to their customer base. UI designers take a more calculated approach in their design because they have to analyze how each object on a site or application functions and interacts. As for work environments, graphic designers may work in studios, advertising offices, publishing agencies, remotely, or for large corporations. UI designers can work remotely and for big companies or startups. 

Another large difference is in salary between the two careers. UI designers make more on average (around $80,000 for entry-level jobs) while graphic designers make about $50,000 on average. Salary in general depends on the location, industry, and experience but the numbers don’t lie. In addition, the job outlook for UI designers looks more promising than for graphic designers. UI designers are expected to increase by 8% by 2029 whereas the graphic design field may decrease by 4% by 2029. We are on the cusp of a continually emerging UX/UI field with expansive opportunities at every corner. 

Transferable Skills

So maybe now you’re thinking about switching to UI design, right? If so don’t worry because a lot of skills acquired by graphic designers are applicable to UI designers. Graphic designers are comfortable with design tools, have a knack for designing and creating amazing layouts, and know how to use visual creations to impact users in a meaningful way. Graphic designers, and UI designers too, are familiar with having their design choices questioned and having to defend their choices. 

One of the cool parts about the tech industry right now is that the field is booming and won’t be slowing down anytime soon. Technology is becoming such a large part of our lives and more companies are creating roles specifically for UI/UX designers. Design skills are in high demand and with the experience and skills graphic designers have acquired they would make a smooth transition into UI design. 


Ready to Switch to UI Design?

Now you can see the many differences between UI design and graphic design, and now be able to choose the right path for you. There are so many paths one can take in this field but ultimately you must choose what is right for you. The wonderful part is that many people transfer from graphic design to UI design and vice versa because of their similar backgrounds. Overall, the UX/UI Design field is growing and this is the perfect time to become a part of it! 


Ready to Get Started? Schedule a Free UX Mentorship Session!

At Avocademy, we help students decide if UX design is right for them. Schedule a call with us to start your UX career journey today.  



Meggen is a SEO content writer who loves hiking, drinking coffee, and traveling. She loves her avocados on toast with egg and bacon. 

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