Beeple, a digital artist, made headlines when he made an NFT sale of USD 69.3 billion in 2021. Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple, started his digital art endeavour in 2007, creating one piece of digital art per day and posting it on social media every day.

13 years later, this minor effort would propel Beeple into the hall of fame, making him one of the world’s leading digital artists. Digital art, like Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days, is incredibly personal and reflects the artist's personal views, emotions, and sentiments regarding something. (Source: Quartz)

As opposed to digital art, graphic design is a communication strategy seeking to educate or promote a brand or cause.

While digital art and graphic design may draw on the same skills and artistic talent, there is a marked difference between the two, even though they are so deeply related. Read on to learn the difference between digital art and graphic design, and how you can benefit from these fields!

What is graphic design?

Imagine a billboard that compels you to buy a product, a website that guides you through its offerings with ease, or a logo that instantly evokes an emotion.

That's the magic of graphic design. It's the art of combining visual elements—images, typography, and layout—to communicate ideas effectively. Think of it as a silent conversation, where visuals guide the audience towards a specific understanding or action.

What is digital art?

Digital art is art made using digital tools and inspiration. Unlike digital art, graphic design has strict rules to be followed for maximum impact. It is the exploration of personal artistic expression using digital tools.

Digital art includes everything from photo manipulation and illustration to 3D modelling and animation. It prioritises artistic vision over specific communication goals. It can be a personal exploration, a social commentary, or simply a visually stunning creation.

The differences between graphic design and digital art

Both graphic design and digital art share a common ground—the love for visual storytelling. However, their approaches differ:

  • Focus: Graphic design prioritises communication, while digital art emphasises artistic expression.
  • Rules: Graphic design adheres to design principles for maximum impact, whereas digital art allows for more freedom and experimentation.
  • Applications: Graphic design serves specific purposes (logos, websites), while digital art can be purely for aesthetic enjoyment (paintings, animations).

The line can sometimes blur.

Digital artists can create visuals for graphic design projects, and graphic designers often use digital art techniques for creative expression. Both fields benefit from a strong foundation in visual principles and software proficiency.

Tools of digital art

Graphic designers and digital artists use tools that can overlap at many points. They wield a powerful arsenal of software to translate ideas into reality.

Popular graphic art software options include:

  • Adobe Creative Suite: The industry standard encompassing Photoshop (image editing), Illustrator (vector graphics), and InDesign (page layout)
  • Sketch: A user-friendly interface ideal for user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design
  • Figma: A collaborative design platform perfect for team projects

Beyond graphic art software, a graphic designer relies on core design principles.

Here are some of the most important principles of graphic design:

  • Hierarchy: Creating a visual order to guide the viewer's eye
  • Balance: Arranging elements for a sense of stability
  • Contrast: Using opposing elements to draw attention
  • Colour Theory: Evoking emotions and setting the tone through colour combinations

What does a graphic designer do?

Graphic designers can work in various settings, including:

  • In-house design teams: Working directly for a company, creating marketing materials, branding elements, and packaging designs.
  • Freelance: Offering their services to various clients on a project basis.
  • Design agencies: Collaborating with a team on branding, advertising campaigns, and web design projects.

Their responsibilities typically involve:

  • Client consultation: Understanding the client's needs and vision.
  • Conceptualisation: Brainstorming ideas and generating design solutions.
  • Execution: Using software skills to create visuals based on approved concepts.
  • Revisions: Refining the design based on client feedback.
  • Presentation: Presenting the final design and ensuring client satisfaction.

How to develop your graphic design skills

Aspiring graphic designers can hone their craft through various educational pathways:

  • Diploma in graphic design: This industry-oriented course lasts 8–12 months and can help prepare you for a career in graphic design much faster than traditional education routes.
  • Bachelor’s degree in graphic design: A comprehensive graphic design programme covering design principles, software proficiency, and design history.
  • Advanced diploma in graphic design: A shorter graphic design programme focusing on core skills and preparing students for entry-level positions.
  • Online courses and boot camps: Intensive graphic design programmes offering specific skill sets or career-focused training.

In conclusion

Beeple can be an example of how digital art and graphic design skills pay off in today’s world. Before his major NFT sale, Beeple also landed exclusive collaborations with Louis Vuitton and Nike given his large social media following and influence in the realm of art and graphic design.

Perseverance, patience, and dedication are the main contributors to Beeple’s immense success. Winkelmann has proven himself to be a visionary, investing 13 years of daily practice and experimentation in the digital world before NFTs, Crypto, or any other similar avenue took centre stage.

Similarly, in today’s evolving world, if you wish to be a successful graphic designer and digital artist, you must have the right skills, knowledge, and vision. You can obtain this through relevant education. Consider educating yourself in the latest graphic design and digital art elements

Learn more about LCCA’s offerings for graphic design and digital art.

This blog was written by Rebecca Paulraj and edited by Candice McDowell


Q: How do digital art and graphic design differ?

Graphic design usually focuses on strategic communication, while digital art prioritises artistic expression and makes room for expressing vague concepts. Graphic design follows strict design principles and seeks to make a calculated impact on the observer, while digital art allows for more creative freedom and is not conversion or impact-focused like graphic design.

Q: Can digital artists also work as graphic designers and vice versa?

Absolutely! The skills and tools often overlap. A skilled digital artist can create stunning visuals used in graphic design projects (illustrations for websites, for example). Similarly, a graphic designer with an artistic flair can create digital art for personal expression or freelance projects.

Q: Graphic design or digital art: Which field offers more career opportunities?

Graphic design is a broader field with established career paths in various industries. However, the digital art market is constantly evolving, with new opportunities emerging in areas like game design, animation, and the burgeoning field of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). Both fields offer exciting possibilities, and the best choice depends on your interests and goals.

Q: Where can I learn more about digital art and graphic design?

There are numerous resources available online and offline:

  • Online courses: Look for certified courses like LCCA’s graphic design programmes. Reputed institutes can help you experience high-quality education in your chosen subject.
  • Design blogs and websites: Stay updated on design trends and learn from industry experts by following popular design blogs and websites.
  • Books and magazines: Explore design principles, software tutorials, and inspiring portfolios through design books and magazines to keep your creative spark lit.
  • Museums and galleries: Immerse yourself in the world of art and visual communication by visiting museums and galleries that showcase digital art and design.
  • Design communities: Connect with fellow designers and artists online and offline through forums, meetups, and professional organisations.
  • Graphic design studios: Design studios offer a great environment for brainstorming and collaboration. These studios can be small boutique shops or large agencies with specialised departments for branding, web design, and marketing materials. Working in a studio allows you to learn from other graphic designers, share ideas, and find guidance from experienced mentors.