What Is Digital Design? a 101 Primer

Digital design is a broad term that generally refers to visuals, products, and services that are created for digital screens.

Everything you see on TV, smartphones, and computers is a digital design, whether it’s an image, video, web page, or app you use every day. If you’re interested in joining a field in digital design, it’s important to have an understanding of the basics.

In this 101 primer, we explore the world of digital design to learn about the many fields, concepts, trends, and principles that come together to create this medium of visual communication.

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Digital Design vs Print Design

digital vs print design

Since the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, it’s been the main medium of visual communication for centuries. Everything from books to newspapers, posters, and banners revolutionized the way we share knowledge and messages, as well as the way we perceive design.

Designing things for the print medium became an art form and it opened doors to many new industries and fields as well.

Today, digital design is the dominant form of visual communication and it also created many fields, often replacing the ones created by print design, like web design, digital graphic design, app design, user interface design, and user experience design.

People often confuse digital design with graphic design, when it’s only a branch of the bigger tree of digital design.

Key Principles of Digital Design

key principles

Even though there are several different types of digital designs that require different sets of skills and knowledge, they all share a similar set of key principles.

User Experience

User experience is at the forefront of every digital design. Every digital design is created with a specific audience in mind. For example, an Android app is created with people who use Android smartphones. And it’s up to the designers to create the best experience for those users.

This involves making sure the app is easy to use and understand. Accessibility plays a key role in this process. Especially to ensure the app can be experienced by everyone, including people with disabilities like color blindness.

Interactions

Digital designs are created for people to interact with them. Even static graphic designs serve this purpose. People will interact with graphics and images based on how and where they view the designs. Whether it’s leaving a like on Instagram, visiting a link to a website, or even buying a product, it all counts as an interaction.

The same principle applies to every form of digital design from websites to apps, games, and even videos.

Layout

The layout is one of the most important parts of a digital design. Arranging all the text, images, and content in a structure that enhances the user experience often determines the success and usefulness of a design.

Everything from the button placements on a web page to the text blocks on a social media post needs to be properly arranged on a layout to achieve the best results.

Another important part of layouts is responsiveness. Today, digital designs are created with responsive layouts to make them compatible with all types of devices and sizes of screens.

Readability

Text always takes center stage in every design. No matter print or digital design, designing text that’s easier to read is extremely important. This involves choosing the right font, text size, paragraph size, title design, and even text colors. Users should be able to read text on all types of screens comfortably as well.

Engagement

Almost every digital design is created with a goal—to encourage users to take action. Whether it’s to visit a website, consume information, click a button, or buy a product, engagement is at the core of many forms of digital design.

Creating designs that drive engagement is overall what digital design is all about.

Tools of Digital Design

tools of digital design

Professionals in different fields of digital design use different types of tools and software. For example:

  • Graphic Design: Photoshop, Illustrator, Affinity Designer
  • Web Design: HTML & CSS, WordPress, Bootstrap, InVision
  • UX and UI Design: Sketch, Figma, Adobe XD
  • Interaction Design: UX Pin, Figma, InVision
  • 3D Design: Blender, Unreal Engine, AutoCAD

The Process of Digital Design

For most projects, designers have to use a combination of these tools to create a functional design. And the process is different for every digital design.

For example, a website design begins with brainstorming. Then designers research to analyse the competition and current trends in web design. Then they come up with a basic wireframe of how the site should be designed. This leads to prototypes, testing, and then to the final design.

digital design trends

New trends emerge in every field of digital design all the time and they usually define the current demand for the skills. This is why it’s important for every professional to stay up-to-date on the latest trends if they don’t want to fall behind.

There have been many different trends in digital design over the years. Some fade away as soon as they emerge. But there are a few design trends that have always been around for years, like minimalist design, responsive design, and retro nostalgic design.

Designers often have to be careful in choosing the right trend to apply to their designs, based on the target audience and the medium they’re using.

Career Opportunities in Digital Design

Career opportunities digital design

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in digital design, the first step you should take is to figure out which field you want to join.

Some fields in digital design, like user experience design and mobile app design, have growing demand in the job market, some others are more difficult to get into. Ironically, those are the fields that are easier to get started.

Fields like web design and graphic design are easier to join. As a result, there’s too much competition in the job market. However, by picking a niche and specializing in a set of skills, you can thrive in any digital design field.

Here are the top in-demand design jobs right now, according to the data gathered from the Indeed marketplace.

  1. Product Designer (Salary: $112,610)
  2. Front-end Web Developer (Salary: $104,842)
  3. Digital Graphic Designer (Salary: $76,912)
  4. UX Designer (Salary: $90,000)
  5. UI Designer (Salary: $80,000)
  6. Motion Graphic Designer (Salary: $50,000)

In Conclusion

Digital design is a medium that’s constantly evolving. With the rise of AI technology, many fields of digital design are now going through drastic changes, some even replacing specific jobs and skills. However, the need for human designers will always be there as long as we create products to serve humans.

The good news is you are still not too late to join a field in digital design. You don’t need any degrees from universities to get started in any of these fields. With well-structured self-learning and lots of practice, you can accumulate enough experience to find a job in digital design.