What Is a Digital Designer?
Looking to become a digital designer? Or want to hire one for your business? Here’s everything you need to know about this profession.
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You probably already know that most graphics nowadays are found in digital format. But, say you’re a small business owner looking to hire a graphic designer. Should you insist on finding a digital designer? What does a digital designer do? What specific skills do you need?
A few decades ago, most professional design was analog. Iconic ad campaigns of the Mad Men era of advertising were devised with pen and paper.
Nowadays, most graphic design is created digitally.
But what is digital design and how is it different from graphic design in general?
What is digital design?
Digital design refers to the creation of visual content using digital tools and technology. It covers many areas like graphic design, web design, digital product design, UI/UX design, animation, and more.
As you might suspect, lots of general graphic design principles are applied in digital design. The main difference comes down to the fact that digital designers commonly need to consider how users will interact with designs.
But do small business owners only need to worry about digital design when marketing their company? Not exactly. In some industries, print design is still quite relevant, and there are lots of branding and advertising design areas (e.g. merchandise, outdoor ads, etc.) where you’ll still need designs for the physical world.
However, over 55% of marketing is digital, with 72% of marketing budgets dedicated to this field. So, no matter what industry you’re in, you’ll probably need to hire a person versed in digital experience design.
What does a digital designer do?
So, what does a digital designer do,exactly? Here are the key areas they work in:
- Graphic design: Graphic design involves creating visual content for both digital and print media. This can include logos, posters, brochures, banners, advertisements, and more. Graphic designers use tools like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and other software to manipulate images, create illustrations, and design layouts.
- Web Design: Web design focuses on creating the visual elements of websites. This includes layout design, color schemes, typography, and the overall look and feel of the site. Web designers also consider user interaction and usability to create engaging and user-friendly websites.
- User interface (UI) design: UI design is concerned with designing the interface through which users interact with software, apps, or websites. UI designers work on creating visually appealing and intuitive interfaces that enable smooth user interactions.
- User experience (UX) design: UX design focuses on enhancing the overall user experience by considering how users interact with a product or service. This involves research, prototyping, and testing to ensure that the digital product design meets the needs and preferences of its target audience.
- Animation: Digital design also encompasses animation, which involves creating moving images using digital tools. This can range from simple animations to complex 3D animations used in video games and movies.
- Motion graphics: Motion graphics involve combining visual elements, typography, and animation to create dynamic and engaging content. It's commonly used in video intros, presentations, and advertisements.
- Digital illustration: Artists can create illustrations using digital tools, mimicking traditional art techniques in a digital setting.tal design allows artists to create illustrations using digital tools, often replicating traditional art techniques but in a digital environment.
- Multimedia design: This involves creating interactive and media-rich content, such as interactive presentations, e-learning modules, and installations.
Do you want to become a digital designer? Or are you just looking to hire someone to take care of your digital graphic design? Either way, it’s wise to understand what are some of the main skills these designers require to succeed.
We’ll start with a list of the most basic skills you’ll need in to get a career as a digital designer. Of course, you don’t need to tick every box from this list - plenty of digital designer jobs won’t require specific skills, such as animation and even digital illustration.
Graphic Design Skills:
- Proficiency in graphic design software (Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.).
- Understanding of visual design principles such as balance, contrast, alignment, and hierarchy.
- Knowledge of typography principles, including font pairing, readability, and hierarchy.
- Understanding of color theory and color psychology
Web Design and UI/UX Skills:
- Knowledge of user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design principles.
- Ability to create wireframes, prototypes, and mockups.
- Understanding of responsive design for various screen sizes and devices.
- Proficiency in creating digital illustrations using tools like Adobe Illustrator or similar software.
- Ability to use digital drawing pads
Animation and motion graphics design:
- Ability to create animations and motion graphics using software like Adobe After Effects or similar tools.
- Understanding of branding principles and the ability to create consistent visual identities, including logos and visual brand guides.
- Familiarity with prototyping software like Adobe XD, Sketch, Figma, or InVision for creating interactive mockups.
User-centered design (UCD):
- Knowledge of user research, usability testing, and creating designs that cater to user needs.
Digital photography and image editing:
- Basic photography skills and the ability to edit and enhance photos.
- Proficiency in video editing software to create and edit video content.
3D Modeling and rendering:
- Understanding of 3D design principles and tools for creating 3D models and renderings.
Just like every other creative professional, designers need additional skills to be able to work as part of a team. Digital designers work together with web and product developers, as well as other members of the digital marketing team. This includes managers, content writers, and SEO specialists.
Here are some of the core skills that can make everyones’
- Ability to manage multiple projects, prioritize tasks, and meet deadlines.
- Strong verbal and written communication skills to explain design decisions and concepts to clients and team members.
Collaboration and teamwork:
- Ability to work effectively in a team, collaborate with other designers, developers, and stakeholders.
- Web and digital product design involve development. Designers should have a basic understanding of coding languages like CSS and HTML, even if they are not professional developers.
Ethical and legal considerations:
- Awareness of copyright laws, intellectual property rights, and ethical considerations in design.
- Ability to present and pitch design ideas effectively to clients and stakeholders.
- Skill in conducting research to gather information and insights for design projects.
How much does a digital designer earn?
Still with us? There’s one last area we need to focus on and this is how much digital designers earn. Depending on what area of design you specialize in, rates might vary slightly.
A digital banner ads designer makes about $35 per hour, while web designers usually charge around $75 per hour. Animators and motion graphic designers earn between $45 and $50 per hour.
According to Indeed the average annual salary for a digital designer in the US is $92,914. You might notice this is quite a bit more than regular graphic designers, who earn around $52k yearly, according to the same platform.
The big difference is mainly because of areas like UI/UX, app design, and animation, which cost more.
We hope this sheds some light on the work of digital designers. As you can see, professionals working in web and digital design can have pretty diverse backgrounds and skills.
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Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.