Digital Designers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

While in high school, take any art and design courses that are available. Computer science classes are also important, particularly those that teach page layout, digital design, Web design, animation, or the editing of art, video, and photographs. Other useful classes include English, speech, marketing, and social studies. Working on the school newspaper or yearbook can provide valuable design experience.

Postsecondary Education

A bachelor’s degree in graphic design, Web design, or digital design is required for most positions in the field. About 300 colleges and art schools offer art and graphic design programs that are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Applicants to bachelor’s degree programs in the graphic arts may be asked to submit samples of their work to prove their artistic ability. Many schools and employers depend on samples, or portfolios, to evaluate the applicants’ design skills. Students also typically complete at least one internship as part of their training.

A period of on-the-job training is expected for all beginning designers. The length of time it takes to become fully qualified as a digital designer may run from one to three years, depending on prior education and experience, as well as innate talent.


A growing number of colleges and universities provide undergraduate and graduate certificates in digital design and related fields. Contact schools in your area to learn about available programs.

Other Education or Training

The Graphic Artists Guild provides teleclasses and webinars to help its members keep their skills up to date and grow their businesses. Recent offerings included How to Create and Deliver Your Best Portfolio, Color Management for the Graphics Arts Professional, and Skillful Communication with Clients. The User Experience Professionals Association offers webinars such as UX Doesn’t Happen on a Screen, It’s in the Mind; Psychology 101: Revisiting the Basics of Human Behavior to Optimize User Experience Design; and Using Automated Testing Tools to Empower Your UX Research. AIGA, the professional association for design; International Game Developers Association; Society of Publication Designers; and other organizations also provide professional development opportunities. Contact these organizations to learn more.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Human Factors International, which bills itself as “the world’s largest company specializing in user experience design,” offers the certified usability analyst credential to those who complete four courses (User Experience Foundations; User-centered Analysis and Conceptual Design; The Science and Art of Effective Web and Application Design; and Practical Usability Testing) and pass an examination. It offers certification courses in cities throughout the United States and the world. Visit for more information. The Nielsen Norman Group offers the certified user experience designation to those who complete at least 30 hours of training and pass five exams. Visit to learn more. 

Voluntary certification is also offered by software developers such as Adobe. Visit to learn about certification programs offered by Adobe. No licensing is required for digital designers. 

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Digital designers typically gain one or two years’ experience in traditional graphic design, plus one to two years’ experience in digital design, before being considered full-fledged designers. Any digital design experience you can obtain while in school will be extremely useful. 

As with all artists, digital designers need artistic talent, creativity, and imagination. They must have an eye for detail and a strong sense of color, balance, and proportion. Much of these qualities come naturally to potential digital designers, but skills can be developed and improved through training, both on the job and in professional schools, colleges, and universities.

Digital designers need solid computer skills and working knowledge of several of the common animation design, drawing, image editing, and page layout programs. Digital design can be done on both Macintosh systems and on PCs; in fact, many designers have both types of computers in their studios.

Other traits for successful digital designers include a talent for solving problems, strong communication skills, the ability to work as both a member of a team and on one’s own, the ability to work well under deadline pressure, and a willingness to continue to learn during one’s career.