Designer ≠ webdesigner

Webdesign and graphic ‘print’ design are two different things, as we are often reminded when dealing with the graphic designer turned webdesigner.

Warning: The following contains massively unfair generalizations – don’t take it personally.

Here is how to spot a graphic designer doing what they know best. Unfortunately this is usually not webdesign.

Delivers design as PDF, Illustrator or Indesign files

Vectors, shapes and centimeters are all very good when delivering for print, but when it comes to web the above formats are a headache. Mainly it is impossible for us to determine the exact dimensions of the design, since vectors scale effortlessly and more importantly because there is not direct correlation between cm’s and pixels. More on this in the next point.

Illustrator can be used to generate webdesign, but this requires a document setup from the start, which I have yet to see used.

Doesnt really understand the difference between pixels and cm

A dead give-away here will be the designer asking something like: How many pixels to a centimeter?

Where a cm is a constant measurement on paper, a pixel is a relative, virtual unit of measurement that expands and contracts according to how many points are drawn on one screen. So the actual distance in cm will vary depending on the user’s screen resolution. In other words, centimeters, or indeed inches and other measurements, are useless in webdesign since they fail to take into account the user’s subjective viewing experience.

Delivers images in print resolution

Recently a designer sent me 2 states of a simple Facebook app in a Photoshop file. While I am always happy to receive designs in PSD, the filesize was a whopping 490mb for a canvas size of 810-800px. How was this even done? The images were set to a massive 300 dpi, only necessary for print.

For an indepth technical explanation on the varying resolutions for web and print see this post.

Uses fonts without regard for websafe fonts

To their credit, graphic designers are often frugal in their use of different fonts, keeping it clean and simple. However the term ‘websafe‘ is often new to them, resulting in all kinds of trouble when the client complains that the implemented font differs from that of the design.

Even with the newer options available through @font-face, Typekit and Google Fonts, there remain blacklisted fonts like Arial Rounded, which are not allowed for general use. Selling the designer on a ‘similar font’ can be a tough sell, and it is best for all if font use is discussed before the non-webdesigner becomes to heavily invested in their typography.

Defines colors as pantone

Pantone color matching is an institution in itself, so it’s not surprising that graphic designers expect it to be a universal standard applicable in all arenas of design… – just not online. For web we prefer hex or RGB specifications. Converting from pantone to web is a messy science, complicated by varying color reproduction on monitors.

Does not define states or interaction flow

If there is an area where print and web are obviously different, here it is. Hover states, interaction logics, validation of form fields, etc. These are not a part of the graphic designer’s mindset since their products remain static allowing only consumption – not interaction.