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What’s the Difference Between a Graphic Designer, a Brand Strategist and Brand Designer?

Jun 23, 2021 | Branding, Business Strategy

We’re walking through the difference between a graphic designer, brand designer and brand strategist, as well as who to hire and when.


If you spend any time online, you’ve probably seen the titles graphic designer and brand designer and brand strategist thrown around like confetti. But, aren’t they one and the same? And for goodness sake, how do you know which one is going to be a good fit for YOU?

Because there are so many options floating around, it can be a little (or a lot) confusing. So, let’s break it down – how do you know when it’s time to hire a brand strategist, a brand designer or a graphic designer?

In this article

>> What is a graphic designer?
>> What is a brand designer?
>> What is a brand strategist?
>> Graphic design versus brand design
>> How to hire the right designer for your business

 

What is a graphic designer?

In most instances, especially in the digital space, brand designer and graphic designer can be interchangeable. More often than not, the service provider will identify with one title over another.

But, when talking about the actual work being done, the two can be vastly different.

Graphic design work can be anything from posters, to package design to invitations to logos to custom patterns. And, it can also signify the process – graphic designers apply the basic design principles to create something. Generally, they approach the project with the design and aesthetic at the forefront.

 

What is a brand designer?

On the other hand, brand design often means creating visuals on behalf of a brand. Yes, the aesthetic is important but maintaining the brand’s integrity and adhering to the brand experience is at the forefront. Whether the designer is creating something from scratch or creating a few marketing collateral pieces, the brand standards take precedence.

 

What is a brand strategist?

A brand strategist is someone who focuses on the overall communication plan for your brand. They aren’t necessarily hands-on with the creative work. They’re more focused on the behind the scenes planning of getting your brand out there.

 

Graphic design versus brand design

Yes, you can work with a graphic designer and get a beautiful logo. However, more often than not, you end up controlling the direction of the design. What I mean by that is you, the business owner, tell the designer what you want and they create something based on those parameters. You are the expert and the designer implements. That type of relationship isn’t necessarily a bad thing – if you’re a new business owner and still getting your bearings, hiring a graphic designer for your logo is a great option. The process isn’t as in-depth and the turnaround is usually pretty quick.

The difference of bringing on a brand designer with a strategy focus is that before even diving into the design, you get clear on how your brand will be communicated and what it stands for. The strategy brings intention to the look of your brand – it guides the design of your logo, the fonts, the colors, the photography. From a process standpoint, the brand designer will play a larger role in crafting your brand. Their job is to guide the direction of the brand based on a few key elements. Here at Witt and Company, we have four brand pillars that guide the design: who, what, why and how.

From a more tactical level, if you’re looking for something to be created from a brand style guide or your design needs are for something personal (like wedding invitations), a graphic designer is a great option. On the other hand, if you’re wanting to create a brand for your business and need a brand identity crafted, a brand designer is your best bet.

Quick disclaimer: just because someone doesn’t use the title doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of doing the work. For example, a very talented friend and brand designer identifies first as a graphic designer because she does a variety of projects, not just brand design. What I’m saying is this isn’t the be-all-end-all. At the end of the day, go with what feels good, titles be damned.

 

How to hire the right designer for your business

First and foremost, I always recommend meeting with the candidate and seeing how your personalities will mesh. This is especially important if you’re searching for someone to craft a new brand for your business. It’s an intimate process and the stronger a connection you have with your designer, the more open you can be with them and the better the results will be.

My second recommendation? Do your due diligence. Ask about their experience and what the process is for the work. If you’re looking for branding help, make sure the strategy is taken into account. If you need templates created for your Instagram grid, have a clear brand style guide so you know the standards will be adhered to.

At the end of the day, YOU are the business owner and YOU get to make the decision on what is the best fit for your needs. Open and clear communication goes a long way in having a great relationship with whomever you decide to bring on.

Happy branding 🙂

All my best,

 

Additional Resources

Looking for more information on brand strategy and how it can support your business? Click here.

Want more understanding of the brand design process? Read this post walking through what it’s like to work with a branding professional.

Not sure if you need a logo or a brand? Check out this post that walks through when to invest in either option.

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