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Illustrator VS Graphic Designer, who’s the right person for the job?

right tool for the job screwdriver nail illustration

Stephen King, an award-winning novelist, narrated in his book On Writing, an anecdote about a toolbox.

His uncle owned a massive toolbox with 3 layers. All kinds of nuts and bolts, tapes and tools were well organized in every section.

When little Stevie was old enough to push the box around, his uncle asked him to bring the whole thing to their front porch to fix a protruding nail.

Stevie burned all his carbs just to bring the box to the door. His uncle then took a hammer from it and fixed the nail with 3 hits then asked him to bring the toolbox back.

“Why did you ask me to bring the whole box instead of just the hammer?” Stephen asked, making his way back to the house.

“So that everything is within arms’ reach. You’ll never know if you need a screwdriver or an extra nail,” he answered.

Stephen King used this toolbox analogy when he taught others how to write a novel. He said that it’s good to have the basic tools (i.e. grammar, vocabulary) on hand so you can complete a writing task without being discouraged.

This is also applicable for design tasks.

Hiring for design work

Design work has many tools and skills involved and you’ll most likely need a whole workshop of thingamajigs instead of just one toolbox.

This is why it’s better to get a professional designer or subscribe to an on-demand design service instead of doing it yourself.

Without the knowledge, any type of design tool will be useless. You need to know the right tool for the right job – and to instantly change it if it’s not working well.

With 3 million businesses advertising on Facebook alone and the sudden influx of digital artists, you’ll find yourself choosing between hiring a graphic designer or an illustrator.

Just by looking at them at work, it’s hard to tell the difference. Because you are unable to differentiate between the two, it will be difficult to decide which choice is ideal for your company’s needs.

This article will discuss their differences to help you choose.

graphic designer illustrator
Can you guess who’s the designer and who’s the illustrator?

What does a Graphic Designer do?

Graphic design work is commercial in nature. The purpose of graphic design is to communicate a message or convince viewers to click, to inquire, to subscribe, and/or to buy.

Their typical responsibilities include laying out a page, graphics for blogs and social media, choosing typography, and creating brand guidelines.

A savvy designer can compose a design by manipulating shapes and colours to encourage the viewer to do a specific action.

What does a Digital Illustrator do?

Illustration work is more imaginative. Illustrators create bespoke drawings or images to visually express a message.

Digital illustrators create original artwork and use design software to create materials ranging from logos to book covers and more.

A good digital illustrator can easily translate messages and ideas into visually appealing drawings.

In summary, here are some of the things that these two professions deal with:

Graphic Designers

  • Compositions
  • Imagery
  • Sourcing elements to create the final artwork
  • Social, web graphics


  • Vector Graphics
  • Freehand Digital Illustrations
  • Line, colour, shape, typography and texture
  • Logo & Branding, Icons

Designs made by a Graphic Designer

Designs made by an Illustrator

Designer skills at a glance

Graphic Designer Illustrator
Creates the overall layout Creates illustrations from scratch
Assembles typography, and other graphic components to create a unified design Creates bespoke drawings that convey a specific, custom message
Web design agencies or graphic design agencies hire graphic designers to handle a variety of projects, including print advertisements and packaging design. Publishers and marketing agencies typically hire illustrators to focus on logo creation, book illustrations, and mascot design.

Why choose if you can have it all?

Owners or managers of small and medium companies usually choose the candidate that can wear many hats thinking that they can get more bang for their buck. That’s logical and I can’t blame them.

Unfortunately, a jack of all trades is a master of none who ends up being overworked.

You don’t need a Swiss knife, you need a toolbox.

If you subscribe to an on-demand design service like Deer Designer, you don’t have to choose between a graphic designer or an illustrator. You don’t even have to find the elusive and expensive Jack of all trades. You can have the best of both worlds.

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Our designers work in groups called Squads with designers of different sets of skills. With teamwork, they can deliver the design you need even if it’s outside your designer’s comfort zone because the rest of the Squad can help them.

Deer Designer is the only design toolbox you will ever need. Know more about our processes here.