Exploring this Job
If you are interested in a career in digital design, there are a number of ways to find out whether you have the talent, ambition, and perseverance to succeed in the field. Take as many art and digital design courses as possible while still in high school and become proficient using computers. To get an insider's view of various design occupations, you could enlist the help of art teachers or school counselors to make arrangements to tour design firms and interview designers.
While in school, seek out practical experience by participating in school and community projects that call for design talents. These might include such activities as preparing print and electronic publications, designing Web sites, preparing animated features, and working with other types of digital media.
Part-time and summer jobs are excellent ways to become familiar with the day-to-day requirements of a design job and gain some basic related experience. Possible employers include design studios, design departments in advertising agencies, and any other organization that has a Web site or offers digital publications.
Finally, read books and other publications about digital design. Here is one suggestion: Web Design: Introductory, by Jennifer T. Campbell (Cengage Learning, 2017).
Digital designers are graphic artists who use computer technology to convey ideas and information or help companies market and advertise their products and services. They create designs for e-books, digital advertisements, Web sites, and other products. While artistic talent is essential to work as a digital designer, it is even more important to have expertise in computer technology, especially the use of digital design software programs.
Whatever their specialty, all digital designers take a similar approach to a project, whether it is for an entirely new design or for a variation on an existing one. Digital designers begin by determining the needs and preferences of clients and potential users, buyers, or viewers.
For example, if a digital designer is working on the cover design of an e-book, he or she will likely meet with editorial managers and art directors to discuss such points as what the market will be for the book (children, adults, etc.) and what size, color, and design preferences they might have. Digital designers must have a good knowledge of how various colors, shapes, and layouts affect the viewer psychologically.
After a plan has been conceived and the details worked out, the digital designer creates some preliminary designs (generally two or three) to present to their managers for approval. They use Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign (all from software designer Adobe); QuarkXpress; or other page layout and design software to create the design samples. The managers may reject the preliminary designs entirely and request a new one, or they may ask the designer to make alterations. The designer then goes back to the "drawing board" to attempt a new design or make the requested changes. This process continues until the manager approves the design.
Once a design has been approved, the digital designer prepares the design for publication—either as an e-book or a print edition.
Another common area of specialization for digital designers is Web site design. Here are some of the most popular specialties in the field.
Internet Advertising Designers
Internet advertising designers, also called interactive advertising designers, create advertising features for client Web sites using text, animation, and sound. They design graphic symbols and logos and revise existing designs for Web use. Designers often use animation or music clips on a site, for example, as part of the home page. They work with writers and Web developers to design promotions, such as surveys, quizzes or other games, to encourage users to revisit the site.
Internet advertising designers not only design and implement traditional advertising techniques on the Web, they are also responsible for making sure the advertising is effective. They constantly check the number of "hits" received by the site, but also find ways to keep users engaged on the site. Engagement is key in getting users to keep coming back to a site. User comments and other responses are monitored by Internet advertising designers and the site’s Webmaster to keep content fresh and exciting.
Many Web sites use interactive animation as a way to grab users’ attention, whether as part of content, games, advertisements, animated menus, banners, pop-up windows, or scrolling text. Flash designers, sometimes known as Flash developers, are skilled at using Adobe Flash to create these animations. Flash is also used to create animations for smartphones, video games, and other digital devices.
For new projects, Flash designers work with members of the creative team or art department to come up with storyboard ideas and design concepts. They use various production tools to design animations, such as those to create shapes, or perhaps a pen tool to create lines or cut or distort shapes. Eraser tools are used in the editing process. Flash designers use scripting language such as HTML or ActionScript to create the final animation.
User Interface and Experience Designers
“User experience design as a discipline is concerned with all the elements that together make up that interface, including layout, visual design, text, brand, sound, and interaction,” according to the User Experience Professionals Association. “User experience works to coordinate these elements to allow for the best possible interaction by users.” At some employers the work of user experience designers and user interface designers are combined, while at some companies, they have distinct job duties.