What Is the Difference Between Graphic Design and Desktop Publishing?

Similar but not exactly the same

A stack of the letters DTP
Graphic design chooses the blocks. Desktop Publishing puts the blocks in place; All the FAQs: Career & Business | Software | Design & Layout | Graphics | Type & Fonts | Prepress & Printing. Image by Jacci Howard Bear; licensed to About.com

Graphic design and desktop publishing share so many similarities that people often use the terms interchangeably. There's not anything terribly wrong with that, but it is helpful to know and understand how they differ and how some people use and confuse the terms.

  • Graphic design jobs involve the creative process of coming up with concepts and ideas and arrangements for visually communicating a specific message.

While desktop publishing does require a certain amount of creativity, it is more production-oriented than design-oriented.

Desktop Publishing Software Is a Common Denominator

Graphic designers use desktop publishing software and techniques to create the print materials they envision. The computer and desktop publishing software also aids in the creative process by allowing the designer to easily try out various page layouts, fonts, colors and other elements.

Non-designers also use desktop publishing software and techniques to create print projects for business or pleasure. The amount of creative design that goes into these projects varies greatly. The computer and desktop publishing software, along with professionally designed templates, allow consumers to construct and print the same type of projects as graphic designers, although the overall product may not be as well thought out, carefully crafted or polished as the work of a professional designer.

  • Graphic design is the process and art of combining text and graphics and communicating an effective message in the design of logos, graphics, brochures, newsletters, posters, signs and any other type of visual communication.
  • Desktop publishing is the process of using the computer and specific types of software to combine text and graphics to produce documents such as newsletters, brochures and books.

    The Merging of the Two Skills

    Over the years, the skills of the two groups have grown closer together. The one distinction that still exists is that the graphic designer is the creative half of the equation. Now every step of the design and print process is heavily influenced by computers and the skill of the operators. Not everyone who does desktop publishing also does graphic design, but most graphic designers are involved in desktop publishing—the production side of design.