It’s a fairly common misconception to think that these two terms are similar—after all, they both have the word “graphic” in them. However, they each serve a completely different role from one another.
Here’s a quick break down on the difference of each one:
Graphic Artists don’t necessarily need a degree but may pursue something in the arts field. They create artwork/visuals that evoke emotion and ideas through the use of photos, drawings, software designs, and any other medium that gets the story across. Sometimes there’s no logic involved, and design rules can often be broken. Graphic artists create illustrations, animations, visual designs/effects, comics, and fine artworks.
Graphic Designers, however, need at least a bachelor’s degree in their field to work at most jobs. Their primary role is to solve visual communication problems. They have studied color theory, typography, concept development, user research, and how to implement the design principles and elements based on the users’ needs. Graphic designers focus on print and web design, branding, packaging, and following the design process (research/discovery, plan, prototype, produce, and evaluate).
Of course, the surface has only been scratched on what each role is responsible for. Primarily, the end difference between these two is that graphic artists focus on the aesthetics of an idea, and a graphic designer focuses on the needs of the user.