Perhaps one of the most timeless debates in the creative industry is to define the difference between “Design” and “Art.” With the growth of the digital world, the debate has crept its way into the field of Graphic Design as well.

From a layman’s perspective, distinguishing between the two is perhaps trickier than picking a needle in a haystack. In simple words, the concepts are a bit hazy and perhaps a little confusing, especially for a beginner.

In this article, we will dive into the rabbit hole and dig for the answer to the difference between Graphic Design and Graphic Artist.

We intend to make it less confusing and hopefully help you decide which path you would like to pursue. In the end, we will discuss how this applies to movie poster design and entertainment marketing, which, of course, is what this website is all about.

female graphic designer

Take One: Graphic Designer

Explaining it in a sentence, graphic “design” is a problem-solving process. A designer employs a methodical and data-driven process based on user needs in order to reach a creative end product. Usually, this end product is to engage and highlight the product, and in our case, the product is TV and Film.

In simple words, “Graphic Design” is a user-centric approach to create content, whereas “Graphic Art” is simply an expression of ideas and emotions.

A Graphic Designer presents visual solutions to communication problems. They use logic and the art of design to trigger a call to action from the viewer.

In terms of movie posters, graphic designers urge the audience to watch the film by using creative and engaging visuals.

A graphic designer needs an in-depth understanding of typology, colors, styles, imagery, composition, etc.; the designer or art director is responsible for making sure everything is utilized in the most appealing and eye-catching ways according to what the client wants.

Typically, graphic design includes:

  • Logo Design
  • Web Design
  • Poster Design
  • Print Design
  • Digital Design
  • Marketing Collaterals
  • Infographic Design
  • Environmental Design (Billboards, Bus Shelters, Subway Ads, etc.)
  • Branding

One of the primary factors that differentiate a graphic designer from an artist is the presence of empathy and emotions in general.

While a graphic artist struggles to express their perspective and emotions to the world, a designer aims to identify user problems and steps into their shoes to devise a solution through design. It’s more design and less empathy.

Basically, a graphic designer makes things look compelling to entice the viewer to engage. It’s the book cover to whatever product they are trying to create for.

If you make a product look cool with graphics, type, infographics, or logos and magnetize the viewer or customer to it, you have done your job!

Female Graphic Artist

Take Two: Graphic Artist

One of the defining aspects of any “Art Form” is the play of emotions and sentiments. A graphic artist, in particular, aims to trigger an emotional response from its audience and attempts to unravel a deeper insight into their minds.

A majority of Graphic Designers start out as either Digital Artists or Illustrators and eventually make their way towards the top as art directors and eventually creative directors should they want the increased responsibility.

Side note: Creative directors make more money.

Prime example

Akiko Stehrenberger, popularly known as the poster girl, is one of the top contemporary movie poster designers in the world.

Akiko started her journey in the creative industry as a freelance editorial illustrator. In the beginning, the majority of her art evolved around creating interesting illustrations and artworks for different projects and clients.

Ultimately, she climbed the entertainment marketing industry ladder and became one of the top designers and art directors in her field. She is highly coveted, and movie poster agencies hire her all the time.

She even has her own book out called, “Akikomatic.”

The primary motive behind graphic artists is expressing an idea or concept through the medium of art to leave an unspoken impression on the audience. Please take a look at Akiko’s work, and most of her posters will leave a lasting impression in your mind.

Throughout time, philosophers have struggled to pen down the definition of “art,” but with little to no success. This is because art is more of an intuitive oriented process rather than a solution-oriented one like in Graphic Design.

As mentioned earlier, art aims to trigger a sense of “humanness” and “emotions” by connecting with the viewer on a deeper and subconscious level.

A majority of the work of Graphic Artists involves:

  • Illustrations
  • Photo Art and Comps
  • Vector Art
  • Graphic Novels
  • Animations and Cartoons
  • Movie and TV Storyboards and Concept Designs

Graphic artists are generally well versed in painting and drawing both in real-world applications and digital. If you wanna roll in the digital artist space, you definitely need to get your digital painting and drawing skills going. Wacom tablets are essential!

Plus you may want to check out this article next to get an idea of the different types of movie poster out there.

wacom artist

The Interrelationship between Graphic Design and Graphic Art with Movie Posters

To say entirely that graphic design has no sense of expression or artistic value is degrading to the profession itself, so don’t get it twisted.

In fact, seeing multiple examples of blockbuster movie posters makes it imperative that “Design” and “Art” go hand in hand.

Functionally speaking, a movie poster serves as a tiny insight into the movie to attract an audience, engage interest, and increase box office sales. This also applies to TV and streaming as getting people to click on a show is the goal.

On the other end, it also acts as a form of expression to trigger emotions, curiosity, and suspense to compel your audience towards the movie or TV show.

Client expectations

From a designer’s perspective, you need to consider many factors before brainstorming on the aesthetics and overall expression.

Movie poster design demands a deep dive into audience behavior, latest trends, and key details before jumping towards the next stage. Meanwhile, when designing posters, you are trying to within the requests of the client.

The client provides a creative brief that explains what they are looking for. You need to mix in all the creativity and required elements like typography, billings, and copy.

If you miss what the client is looking for you have a failed project.

As you can see it’s a total balancing act.

Throughout this process, the spotlight is projected towards your audience rather than the content. Afterward, the designer takes the role of an artist and shifts the focus towards capturing the essence and expressing the movie’s identity through the poster.

As we know, the primary aim of a movie poster is to ignite these necessary “emotions and sentiments” in an attempt to pull your audience towards the movie theaters or click on a Netflix show.

Wacom Artist 2

Movie Poster Designer Hats

As an art director working in the movie business, you are expected to wear all the hats mentioned above. You need to be a graphic designer and graphic artist.

One project may require straight-up design, and another may need a more illustrative emotional approach where you make the actual illustrations.

However, other times as an art director working in the movie poster business, you are tasked with finding an illustrator or fellow even graphic artist, like Akiko, to create your idea. Still, it would be done in their aesthetic and style.

Once the illustration or artwork is received, you are required to graphic design, meaning add the title, copy, and whatever else is needed.

You can even color correct the illustration/art.

As you can see, there is a ton of interplay between “graphic designer” and “graphic artist” when it comes to Movie Poster design. To be successful, you will be wearing a lot of hats using multiple skill sets!

Poster Wall

Where To Get These Skills?

Now to finally address the elephant in the room; Are you a “Graphic Designer” or a “Graphic Artist?” As this article suggests, these are two different terms with completely different meanings and concepts.

You can be both designer and an artist; however, the role you choose to take will definitely depend on the project’s need.

If you aim to become a designer, art director, or even a creative director, it’s a good idea to understand the difference between the two while pursuing your career.

My suggestion is if you are pursuing poster design, then you will want to get good at design, typography, illustration, sketching, and of course, creative graphic art! Our “Poster Gallery” has great examples and inspiration.

You have to know how to use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

The cool thing is that we are creating an amazing online class that will show you how to become a designer or art director within the field of entertainment marketing, aka TV and Movie Poster Design.

It will allow you to understand your role as a graphic designer or an artist in the overall process of creating a compelling and awesome movie poster that will make your creative director happy as well as the client.

Our classes are taught by professional designers, illustrators, art directors, and creative directors that are actually in the movie poster industry and not some professor at art school the never stepped foot in a design agency. We teach the necessities and leave the BS out.

Since our classes are in development, you will need to sign up for our Newsletter, and when classes are available, you will be notified!

Until then you may also find this post to be extremely helpful when it comes to education: