Whether you are an excited designer or a businessman in need of those services, game design and graphic design can be confusing for you. In general, game design is a comprehensive process. It starts when the idea first appears and ends when the game is ready to launch. In contrast, video game graphic design focuses on individual elements of design. To make it simple, if game design is the ‘brain’ of game development, graphic design is the ‘body.’ The former deals with the operations, rules, strategies, and levels of the game. However, the latter is all about creating a game that is appealing to the eye. It deals with how the game looks and feels. 

I already shared with you the main differences between graphic design and video game design. However, these two terms are broader and require a separate focus. Hence, I will first explain to you their details and then compare them. After reading the blog, you will have a deep understanding of the distinct and similar features of graphic and game design. The two fields have differences in terms of purpose, process skills, responsibilities, and tools. 

What is Video Game Graphic Design?

The video game graphic design generally deal with the brand image through advertising and marketing. Mostly, it is about creating a logo, website design, brochures. Graphic design is also responsible for in-game elements such as typography or 2D game graphics. Designers built 2D art to communicate the ideas to the game audience. As a result of their designs, gamers will form a perception of the video game. This perception means that when the players even hear the name of the game, they will instantly connect it to a pleasant experience. Hence, we can claim that graphic designers deal with how the game feels, instead of how it operates. 

As mentioned before, the game graphic design manages the typography, illustrations, and photography to create a visual brand of the game. There are several issues that graphic designers deal with.

  • Color- colors of the game should convey a message. The palette should reflect the game theme, but at the same time, it should be catchy.

  • Size- text and picture size should fit the screen and look attractive. Besides, designers can also adjust the size if they create mobile game graphics rather than desktop. The reason is that mobile screens are much smaller and difficult-to-see.

  • Spaces- if one does not obey the space requirements, the design will look crowded and not appealing. For instance, in logo design, there should be precise space requirements to make the logo more visibly attractive.

Besides, the skills required for graphic designers include design programs, print design, networking, problem-solving, or time management for successful game development. I will talk about each of them in detail in the following sections.  

What is Game Design?

video game graphic design

The game design process is about creating visual art for in-game elements. It involves the concept, level, story, and character-environment design. Besides, you should consider that each of these elements can be a separate field, too. In big game companies, game designers can be divided into concept designers, character designers, etc. However, it is common that in small companies, one designer takes responsibility for many tasks.

Besides, video game graphic design is closely linked to game design. As graphic designers deal with how the game look and feel, game designers should share their ideas to come up with a comprehensive game theme. However, video game design covers more tasks and responsibilities than just building 2D game graphics. Also, it requires more skills, including programming, logical thinking, or brainstorming. 

The game design process involves building rules, mechanisms, or storylines of the game. Hence, there are some factors to focus on: 

  • Interactivity- if a game designer builds interaction between a player and character, or among players, the game experience will become more advanced. 

  • Challenges- the primary purpose of the gameplay is solving a problem while having fun. Therefore, the complexity of challenges should increase by time to keep gamers. Besides, players will enjoy the feeling of achievement.

  • Levels- the game should include some levels. The gamers should be able to pass these levels at regular intervals. In this way, a game development company will be able to maintain the players’ interest. 

  • Uniqueness- the more special theme the game has, the more interesting it will be. If a game has the same concept as its rivals, it will be annoying for the players. Game designers need to locate special effects, 3D game graphics and animations to make the game stand out. 

Differences Between Game Design and Graphic Design

Video game graphic design and game design are the terms that people confuse frequently. Though they are the fields of design, they have many differences. In this section, I tried to summarize the differences under the central concept, process, skills required, and responsibilities categories. 

We can divide the skills into two subcategories to simplify the process- hard skills and soft skills. For further information, hard skills indicate the ones that require technical and measurable abilities. For instance, the ability to work with Maya software solutions to create 3D game graphics is a hard skill. On the other hand, soft skills are traits such as time management or communication.

  1. General Concept

Before focusing on the details, the general concept of game design is different from video game graphic design. First, the game design deals with the whole development process of the game. On the contrary, the graphic design makes the game feel and look entertaining. Second, the game design focuses on the logic of the game. Rules, the story, or interactions are vital parts of game design.

Contrary to this, the graphic designer is concerned with the user interface. Thirdly, the focus of the graphic design is narrower. The video game graphic design pays attention to individual design elements. However, the focus of the game design is much broader with the compatibility and usability of the game. For instance, the graphic designer may work on the logo design while the game designer will brainstorm the idea, code, and test. 

  1. Design process

video game graphic design

The game design process starts when the idea appears. Game designers brainstorm the idea and refine it. Then they create a design document where they add all the design elements. Based on the design document, they start building the game. Video game programmers make the game with codes, and artists work on characters and 3D game graphics. After the game is built, testing is needed. Testing is necessary to assure quality. Debugging process and consumer tests reveal the problems of the game. Once developers fix the flaws, it is time to launch the game. 

A graphic designer follows several steps. The process starts with reviewing the design brief. In this stage, the designer should pay close attention to the budget, deadline, and main requirements. Based on the desired elements, the designer should do research. The purpose of research can be understanding the value of the company, the theme of the game, the target audience, or competitors. The next step involves creating sketches, and then 3 to 5 versions of the design. After the client approves one or gives comments, the final version is made. 

  1. Hard Skills for Video Game Graphic Design and Game Design

If you want to develop your career in the field of video game graphic design, you should excel in graphic design software as a part of hard skills. There are popular and widely used tools for creating 2D game graphics such as Adobe Creative apps- Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign. You will satisfy most of the job requirements if you are mastering working with them. Besides, sometimes, designers ignore print design. They focus too much on digital art. However, the popularity of print designs is still in effect. Thus, when the artwork is printed, the design looks different. Therefore, the designer should be aware of the challenges of printing.

Also, some experts claim that it is beneficial if you have some understanding of coding tools, namely C++ or Java. In this way, you will be more aware of how the desktop or mobile game graphics will be more useful for game developers. But, sure the level of understanding does not have to be the same with the game designers. Knowing the basics of coding will be enough.

On the other hand, if you plan to be a professional game designer, you have to master programming languages. Coding is an essential part of game design. There exist a few tools which do not require coding ability. However, with these tools, one can only develop simple, engaging games. Usually, beginners use them to practice their skills. Professional game designers work with Java, the C languages, Python, and many others. These tools are the ‘brain’ of the games. With their help, one decides how the game will operate based on the rules. But, there is also ‘body’ of the game which includes animation or graphics. It is better if the designers have skills for 3D game graphics, too.

Soft skills

In terms of soft skills for video game graphic design, the most important one is the creativity. Many designers use references or try to find inspiration from outside factors. This strategy is a common practice. However, if you are not creative, then the work you create will be a duplicate of references. Instead, you should build original work based on referrals or inspirations. Besides, communication skills are also necessary. Graphic design involves communication with many different parties, including a large game development team. It is essential to convey your ideas and understand others. Also, a graphic designer will be more successful if he has proper time management. Usually, they work on a project basis, so there will be many deadlines. If you do not meet the deadlines, you will lose a large customer base. 

Though the video game graphic design involves the skills for creating appealing 2D game graphics, game design soft skills focus on logic more. The game should work without any flaw and based on the preset rules. The coordination of game characters, their interaction with the environment, and with the players- all require extensive thinking. Hence, logical thinking is the most crucial for game designers. They should ensure the continuity and smooth flow of elements. In terms of team skills, brainstorming will be helpful. Video game development requires the effort of the whole team. Hence, a game designer should be able to discuss the concepts and give feedback to his colleagues. 

  1. Responsibilities 


Game designers can generate their ideas or on a reference idea. The second case happens when the game uses a movie, TV series, or book concepts as a base. No matter which type of theme is assigned, a game designer should focus on setting, guides, story flow, characters, and props. After they think about each detail, they need to work on a design document. This document will be the tool to convince the development team to apply the features. 

As a next step, they should work closely with programmers and artists to create a rough version of the game. This version should be tested to see if it is suitable for the gamers’ preferences. Besides, they should consider that games should be compatible with a range of devices. Mobile game graphics might work correctly with different types of platforms, including IOS and Android. Game designer guides the game development process from idea creation till the launch. 

Video game graphic design is more about establishing the profile of the game for the outsiders. It is all about how the game brand looks. A graphic designer illustrates the concept by creating the layout of the art. He decides the color palette, size, type size, and font style. Also, the designer must communicate each step to the idea owner or the team. Different from game designers, graphic designers focus on elements individually rather than thinking about their connections with other objects. Graphic designers get ideas, search them, and apply using visual design tools. After they get approval, they either consider printing issues or share the art online. 

  1. Software

Game designers and graphic designers utilize different tools. Among game design tools, Unity is one of the most prominent ones. It requires extensive coding skills to create both 2D and 3D art. Coding can be difficult. However, it allows designers to create custom features. Both the paid and unpaid versions of this tool are available. If you want to stay away from coding and create simple games, you can use Construct two or Stencyl. With Construct 2, you can create 2D art and publish it to HTML5. It also has a free version. But if you want a mobile game development, then you need to pay. Other tools include Unreal Engine, JavaScript, C++, Game Salad, and many more. 

Graphic designers, on the contrary, use Adobe creative apps, Canva, Pixlr, Autodesk SketchBook, Venngage, and other software. Autodesk is also one of my favorite tools because it is easy to use. One can create powerful illustrations with the help of this tool. For video game graphic design, another great software is Adobe Illustrator. It is very suitable for logo design and print elements. The software allows a high level of customization. 

The critical consideration is that you need to know the tools from both sides. No matter which field you choose, if you have an understanding of the other one, your designs will be exceptional. For instance, if you are a graphic designer, start learning to code for video games. Alternatively, game designers should have brief information about visual tools, too. 

Similarities between Graphic Design and Game Design

Though these two terms have a lot of differences, they also share some similarities. Do not worry; I am not going to say that both are related to the design. There exist more significant similarities. For instance, the soft skills mentioned for each field can be the mutual points. It is right that video game graphic design requires a high level of creativity. However, it also has significance for the game design process. Alternatively, time management is necessary for game design as much as it is for graphic design. Also, mobile game graphics are crucial for both fields, though the game design might supersede. The art of graphic designers or the game itself should be compatible with mobile devices. Additionally, both design fields require extensive teamwork and coordination. Brainstorming the ideas or getting feedback are the keys to successful design processes.