The Difference between Game Art and Design and Why You Need to Know

Student Work

Have you ever wanted to get into games, but don’t know where to start?

Quite often we hear people say they want to be a Game Designer, and then begin to discuss concept art and environment designs. What is it about these two totally different professions that gets people so confused? Mostly this is due to how the word Design is used so frequently with regards to Graphic Design, Fashion Design, Industrial Design and Web Design so it’s no wonder we assume Game Design refers to the design of the artistic elements of games!

But when it comes to making games, there are Game Designers, who design the actual mechanics and systems of a game itself and Game Artists, who ‘design’ and create the art for a game.


Here’s a way to think about it, if you’re not sure… try answering these questions:

  • Do you love drawing and painting?
  • Do you love sketching and animating characters and/or environments?
  • Do you think that you would enjoy making 3d models and animations?

If this sounds a bit like you, then you’re probably a game artist!

  • Do you enjoy writing and structuring stories?
  • Do you analyse games when you play them, and come up with your own game ideas and mechanics?
  • Do you enjoy designing board games or card games?
  • Do you like making new scenarios or levels in games that have level editors?
  • Do you enjoy organising and coordinating projects?

If this sounds a bit like you, you’re most likely a game designer!


So what is a Game Designer and why do we need them?

A Game Designer has an integral role in game development, as they are the person who makes a game fun and engaging. But this doesn’t mean any other role is less important. A programmer makes the game function, and an artist makes it pretty, but just because it functions and looks pretty doesn’t mean you will want to play it.


To make a game engaging, a designer needs to cover many things such as the story, levels, user interface, and user testing. So if the game is functional and looks great, but is boring - the game designer needs to find out why and fix it.


AIE Game Design students also learn the skills of being a Producer, ensuring the project stays in scope, making sure the team sticks to the premise and ensures the whole team works together.

AIE | What is Game Design | What is Game Art

The role of the Game Artist

Even though a designer and artist work together as a team, the artist’s role is to create the artwork which compliments the genre and style of the game. Hence, you might say the artist’s role is to tell the story through art. Once the art is created, Artist provides a library of 3D objects that the designer would use to create a final functioning level, allowing for the game to have the right mood, style and consistency.


How is this done? Through character concepts, 3D assets, and character creation. Once we have our characters, they also bring them to life through animation.


So now that you know the difference, next time you play a game you’ll be able to appreciate the roles of the people behind the scenes!

Jacqui Martin