What is the difference between Graphic Design and Illustrative Design?

The word “design” applies to several mediums of art. In one sense, all artists are designers within their own respected fields. While there is some overlap between the worlds of graphic design and illustrative design, there are also significant differences artists should consider in pursuing the right program. 

How are Graphic Design and Illustrative Design similar?
Both fields are experts in implementing creative solutions to solve design problems. For example, a package design is something that both of these disciplines will encounter. While a graphic designer will focus on the usability and imagery, an illustrative designer will be more focused on the visual presence of the surface of the packaging.

Another area where the two overlap is in motion graphics. The illustrative designer is more likely to hand draw assets for animation where a graphic designer may create motion by other means such as typography, photographs and more.

What exactly is Illustrative Design?
An illustrative designer uses an illustrative approach in everything that they do. Students who pursue illustrative design love to draw and will take courses in perspective, human anatomy, and still-life painting where they develop their skills as an illustrator. Their foundation relies on traditional mediums such as acrylic paint, graphite, charcoal and pastels.

In upper-level classes, illustrative designers learn how to work with clients on a variety of different projects including the creation of narrative based illustrations, advertising, editorial and institutional-based illustrations, including illustrations for short stories. At this point, students will be skilled in programs like Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign and After Effects.

There is an array of opportunities for someone with an Illustrative Design degree. This can consist of branding, package design, motion graphics, editorial illustrations, data visualization, print media and much more!

What is Graphic Design?
Graphic design consists of a multidisciplinary human-centered design approach. Meaning, there’s no singular approach to creative obstacles that graphic designers will face. Graphic design students learn lens-based media such as photo/video along with web design, infographics, typography, mixed media, UX/UI and much more. Moreover, by the time a graphic designer graduates from RMCAD, they are capable of wearing many hats. By the time students graduate, they will be well-versed in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, XD, Dreamweaver, Premiere Pro, After Effects and more. Graphic design students also learn the foundational elements of drawing.

The career opportunities for graphic designers consist of branding, package design, motion graphics, editorial layout design, front end web/mobile application developer, art director, advertising, information visualization, digital design, user experience and much more!

How do I know which program is right for me?
That is a common question we get often! Our friendly admissions team can help elaborate specifics such as which classes you will take, what you will learn as an artist and where you can expect to be following graduation. In addition, our department chairs, Jay Hollick and Jim Reiman are more than happy to talk with you as well, so you are set up for success! Click here to learn about Illustrative Design and click here to learn about Graphic Design. In order to get the conversation started about your creative potential, please fill out this form.