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Graphic design: Print vs. web

Many people think graphic design is the same across all mediums. Most professionals in our business, however, know that is not necessarily the case. While there are some similarities, there are many more differences when designing for commercial print versus the web.

The key design differences include images, typography, color and user experience.


When designing a piece for commercial printing, high-resolution images are required. These images (also referred to as hi-res) are typically larger files with a minimum of 300 dots per inch (dpi). Images for web design only need 72 dpi, since that is the highest resolution a computer monitor can display. Designing printed marketing collateral or direct marketing pieces, using images that are 72 dpi, will result in extreme pixilation. On the other hand, web-based collateral that’s designed with large, hi-res images will slow down the page load speed and may cause people to leave your site early, increasing your site’s “bounce rate.”


Graphic Designers have the freedom to use any number or any combination of fonts when designing for commercial print. When it comes to the web, there are only nine web-safe fonts. A web-safe font is one that displays exactly as your design intends. Designing out of the constraints of these nine fonts, however, may cause your page to display incorrectly, thus affecting the integrity of your original design.


Selecting the right colors can make or break your design. As a skilled Graphic Designer it’s not so much about color combinations, but rather what color profiles are used to build your designs. When working with a commercial printer designate all colors as either spot PMS colors or CMYK. This ensures a standardization and consistency of color when working with offset printing presses. Collateral designed for the web should be saved using RGB profiles or you can also use hex-color designations. Again, this is just a matter of designing within the constraints of the medium.


User interface, or UX, is a common web design term. In short, UX describes how a user navigates your collateral. Graphic Designers spend a lot of time studying user patterns and analyzing heat maps or click charts to determine if a website is user-friendly. The goal is to ensure users stay on-page long enough to receive the intended content.

The same is true for a well-designed direct marketing printed piece. In this case the designer needs to understand where the key messages need to be placed in order to be read by the recipient. It’s similar to designing a successful UX, yet the psychology of mail is a little different. A good Graphic Designer knows the differences and can slightly adjust the design to enhance its effectiveness.

This may all seem like a lot, but knowing the subtle differences in the graphic design disciplines will make your project much more successful. If you have questions concerning the differences between designing for print and the web, please contact us today.

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[About us: Prisma Graphic is a full-service, marketing solutions provider with an emphasis in commercial printing that specializes in online marketing supply chain management. Utilizing cutting-edge technology and a commitment to customer service, we partner with clients to develop cost-effective programs that execute integrated brand campaigns and highly-targeted business communications. Our ongoing evolution is to deliver sales opportunities at the lowest possible cost.]

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BY PRISMADecember 21, 2010

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