Home » Blog » Print design vs web design: are they different and how?

Print design vs web design: are they different and how?

Print vs Web DesignWhat is the difference?

While web (digital) design and print (graphic) design have much in common, there are some important distinctions. Perhaps you’re looking to hire a designer for a particular job. Knowing the difference between web design and print design will help you hire the best person for the job. Also, print design vs web design is an important distinction for any designer who is looking to offer both services.

1. Print design vs web design: static vs Interactive

Print designers work with static content. This means that once a project is complete, it isn’t going to change. Web designers work primarily with dynamic and interactive content. The content and the design can be tweaked or completely redesigned at any time. Also, rather than simply reading or watching, interactive content is meant to be engaging.

Let’s take a newspaper for example. Imagine the differences between reading the New York Times print edition and the New York Times website. Even if you are presented with exactly the same information, the experiences will be difference.

There’s the obvious tactile difference between holding the paper and sitting in front of a desktop computer, or holding a laptop, tablet or smart phone. Additionally, with the online edition you can easily learn more by clicking internal links, reading other stories written by the same reporter, and clicking on related stories featured at the bottom of an individual page. You can’t do that with the printed piece. However, if you don’t have an internet connection, or if you’re away from your device, the printed newspaper may be the only way for you to get your news.

2. Print design vs web design: fixed vs fluid

The biggest hurdle for most designers transitioning from print to digital is the lack of a consistent page size. The print designer knows before she starts working what size the final printed piece will be. The type of paper has been determined and the printing equipment that will be used is known. The print designer has defined specifications and ultimate control over how the page looks. The designer determines line length, text and image placement, and final color.

The digital designer uses fluid design. She has to design for screens as small as a smart phone and as large as a big screen tv. Fluid design adapts to whatever screen resolution or device the user has. Fluid design makes use of the entire browser window and maximizes the amount of content on the screen at any time. For a print designer used to having complete control, letting go can be a challenge. In the end, for both the web designer and the print designer, the ultimate goal should be to provide a good experience for the user.

3. Print design vs web design: the user

How a user finds your work differs between print and digital. In many cases, users who come across your printed piece have not gone there intentionally. They may be walking past a bulletin board and see a poster, past a table and see a brochure, be flipping through a newspaper and see an ad. Your goal in these cases is to grab their attention, and the designer has limited space to achieve the goal.

On the other hand, a user who comes to your website has usually arrived on purpose. The designer doesn’t need to bang them over the head to get their attention. Instead, the designer’s goal should be to make the site look interesting, friendly, and familiar. We want the visitor to stay on the site and consume the information. The user should understand intuitively how the site works. What they need to do and where they need to go to get what they came for should be obvious. The amount of space, the number of pages, is essentially unlimited.

Finally, since the web designer can provide information that goes deep into details, keeping the user on the site means that you’re more likely to convert them. If the user can find everything they need where they are, then they don’t need to go to your competition.

4. Print design vs web design: limitations


Print designers do not have to worry about how the user is going to consume their piece. Everything the reader needs to get the information is literally in their hands.

Conversely, web designers must think about what device their user is likely to have, what browser they are running, and what kind of internet connection they have. Large photos slow down a website and can eat up a mobile user’s data plan.


When print designers start a new project, they know how the piece will be printed and what resolution they can count on. High end print projects will be high resolution, typically 1200 DPI (dots per inch) or higher, while less expensive projects will be lower resolution, perhaps 300-600 DPI. The resolution of the images that they use will be chosen accordingly. Digital designers, on the other hand, must think about what equipment their visitors are likely to have. While some modern high DPI (dots per inch) displays offer resolutions approaching 300 DPI, the resolution of most desktop displays is closer to 100 DPI. Therefore, small highly detailed graphics are generally best avoided on the web.

Print design and web design at Trevellyan.biz

Suzanne Trevellyan got her start as a print designer. She has been working with digital media, primarily designing websites and email blasts for small to medium size businesses and organizations, since 2004. Browse the Trevellyan.biz print portfolio and website portfolio. You can also learn about our web design and graphic design services. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss hiring Trevellyan.biz for your project, please call 518.392.0845.

Pin It on Pinterest