Digital Design: Technical and Creative Design Skills

Digital Design: Technical and Creative Design Skills

People do everything online, from shopping to banking to ordering food. As a result, it’s become almost impossible for businesses to stay relevant without an online presence. And one of the key elements in a successful online presence is eye-catching visual design content.

Companies today need workers with the technology skills to compete in their industry. Digital design, in particular, has become an increasingly sought-after skill for businesses. Digital designers lay the blueprints for everything you see online. In this article, we’ll explain what digital design is, tell you how it evolved from graphic design, and go over a few types of digital design.

Use the jump links below to quickly skip between sections:

What is digital design?

Digital design is any form of design intended to show up on a screen rather than a printed page. Digital media designers create art for mediums like websites, applications, and video games.

Digital design vs. graphic design

Both graphic design and digital design are forms of visual communication. Sometimes, businesses will use the terms interchangeably, but that’s not quite right. Digital design could be described as the evolution of graphic design.

Graphic design is the process of creating static art deliverables for mediums like newspapers, books, and pamphlets. Before the internet became a vital tool for businesses to increase their reach, designers didn’t need to create complex projects that users would interact with online.

That changed when the internet became available to the public in the 1990s. Businesses needed artists who could provide designs for the emerging medium. All of a sudden, graphic designers needed new skill sets to meet their clients’ needs. Digital design was born.

In addition to static art and print ads, digital designers can create motion graphics. They can design animations, videos, interactive web layouts, and 2D and 3D models for webpages and applications.

Types of digital designs

A variety of companies need the help of digital designers—from production companies to video game creators to general businesses. In the next few sections, we’ll go over some types of projects a digital designer might work on.

1. Web design

The first place many consumers look to find out about a business is the company’s website. Web design is the most common form of digital design because businesses need websites to be competitive in their industries. Web design might consist of creating homepages, landing pages, and information pages for a business’s website.

People don’t just look up websites on desktop computers anymore, though. They can access business websites on mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, as well. There are two ways to make websites that work with a variety of screen sizes:

  • In responsive design, elements on a page appear on a grid. Each element maintains the same percentage of space on the page no matter what size the overall image is.
  • In adaptive design, several versions of the same website are created for various standard screen sizes. The site has a mechanism that senses the screen size and chooses the correct size to portray to the user.

ESPN’s homepage is perfectly designed for desktop computers and mobile devices. It makes excellent use of white space and has large, easy-to-read text. It uses images sparingly, making it simple to navigate and scroll through.

ESPN

2. App design

There are applications for almost any function you can think of—from shopping online to playing music to finding directions. Native apps are created for specific operating systems (OS), like Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android OS. Web apps are used online and can be accessed using various devices with different operating systems.

While app design and website design can be similar, applications differ from websites in that they help a user perform a particular function. For example, a financial app might help a consumer track and manage their bank account. Consumers typically use websites to search for information.

The key to creating great apps is usability. Apps need intuitive designs for mobile platforms like smartphones and tablets. People tend to use mobile apps on the go, so it’s important for applications to be easy and quick to use.

The Wells Fargo financial app, for example, uses an easily visible, simple color scheme of white, tan, and red. It also has clearly labeled buttons that represent functions.

Wells Fargo

3. Infographic design

Infographics are visual representations of information. In digital design, infographics can be things like pie charts, logos, diagrams, or even videos and animations. Digital artists can use programs like Canva, Visme, or Piktochart to create all sorts of infographics.

Infographics can be eye-catching ways to entertain an audience and build brand awareness. Sometimes, pictures can provide a better way to communicate to your audience.

Let’s say your company sells project management software. You want to include a page on your website that shows users how to use your program. A simple diagram or a short how-to animation could be easier for users to follow than text instructions.

The Monday.com homepage provides a colorful and appealing infographic that shows visitors everything the project management software can do. It even includes several icons of apps that the program integrates with.

4. Email design

Well-designed emails can delight readers, get them excited to learn more about your company, and gently nudge them through a sales journey. They can also help you solidify or represent your brand to audiences.

Digital designers know how to organize text and images to make emails appealing and easy to follow for your target audience. Email designers can also use tools like color schemes, photography, and animations to project a certain tone or mood for your business.

The below marketing email from the online educational platform Zenva is attractive, fun, branded, and easy-to-follow. The company’s logo is clearly visible next to an eye-catching, colorful design. It’s targeted toward aspiring web developers and advertises a free course to intrigue viewers.

5. UX design

UX stands for user experience. UX design involves a user’s entire experience while using a product. It’s meant to decide what users want or need from a digital project.

UX involves doing a lot of user research and collecting feedback using tools like Talebook and Feedier. That research is used to create an outline of everything a website should have.

UX answers questions like “What information does a user need in this website or application?” and “What is the process that the user follows when using this digital product?”

6. UI design

UI stands for user interface. It’s about how everything is laid out visually on a digital project. UI builds on the outline created by a UX team to create an aesthetic design of how a website will actually look.

UI design involves designing the elements of a digital project and deciding how those elements should be arranged in a virtual space. UI design answers questions like “How should images on a page be spaced out?” and “What fonts should be used to make a particular page more readable?”

7. Social media page design

Social media page design is about creating the best posts and elements for different social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This could include things like images, animations, and text.

Designers who do this type of design should keep up with what’s trending on various social media channels so they know which topics and strategies are most likely to get an audience’s attention. Content for social media sites should be branded using company logos and themes to help your audience recognize your business.

The banner for Best Buy’s Facebook page uses a simple blue-and-white color scheme that emphasizes images of tech equipment. Pictures of smiling people help create a light-hearted mood for the banner. The Best Buy logo is clearly visible and there’s an easy-to-find link to shop on the company’s website.

Best Buy

8. Ebooks

Ebooks are only available in digital format. They can save a business a lot of money over books that are physically printed and distributed. Companies sometimes provide downloadable e-books with consumers to share information about their products and increase their brand recognition.

Digital designers ensure that the cover of an e-book and any images inside of it are attention-grabbing and promote a company’s brand. They also decide how information inside the ebook should be presented and organized for clarity and appeal.

The cover of LinkedIn’s Data Driven Recruiting ebook features appealing images of young professionals working on a project together. A blue tint over part of the image directs the viewer’s eye toward the title of the ebook and the LinkedIn logo.

Linkedin

9. Digital ads design

Brands can purchase advertising space on various platforms like social media sites, industry webpages, and even search engines. There’s a variety of digital ad types, from digital flyers to banner ads.

But internet users see thousands of ads on a daily basis. To stand out, digital ads need to be highly targeted toward specific audiences. Quality digital ad designers use images and text to help make an ad attractive and useful for your company’s intended consumers.

For example, Google Ads lets you create ads that will be featured on the search engine results pages (SERPs) when an internet user searches for a chosen keyword.

This paid ad for Monday.com features an image with a fun and eye-catching yellow, green, and pink color scheme. It clearly states that it’s an ad for project management software. There are also clear links users can follow to find pricing data and other information about the product.

10. 3D design

3D graphics can be extremely attention-grabbing. Digital artists that do 3D design use 3D modeling software programs like Blender and Daz Studio 3D to create realistic characters and scenes.

These designs are usually used for things like animations and video games. Certain projects in industries like construction call for 3D mockups and outlines to be created before they start building, as well.

The website for Gucci’s Flora Gorgeous Gardenia perfume is 3D and fully interactive. Users can explore the front yard of a mansion and see various animated cats doing things like climbing stairs or lounging on tree branches. The company’s name, “Gucci,” is prominently featured in the center of the frame at the top of the page.

Gucci

11. Video design

Video content has become a hugely popular way for businesses to promote their projects. Video design involves things like staging live events, creating animations, and producing commercials for digital platforms.

Video content can appear in a number of places like industry websites and on platforms like YouTube. There are several types of videos that businesses can create. Video content can be animated or live action and can be educational or commercial.

This YouTube commercial for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom features a series of beautiful photos and shows how the service can improve color schemes. YouTube usually gives users the option to skip an ad after a couple of seconds, so YouTube ads need to grab a viewer’s attention immediately.

Adobe

12. Video game design

Video game design involves building interactive games for consoles, computers, smartphones, and other platforms. Before creating a game, video game designers work with creatives who develop premises, stories, and plots for games.

Designing for video games usually takes a certain amount of coding knowledge, as well. Games are designed using programming languages like C++ and Java.

Halo Infinite was one of the most anticipated video game releases of 2021. It was coded using the C++ and C programming languages. 343 Industries actually created its own engine (video game framework) called Slipspace specifically for the game.

Halo

Digital designer categories

Depending on a digital designer’s skills, there’s a number of roles they can have. Here are a few of the most in-demand digital designer career paths and what they entail.

Graphic designer

The main goal of a graphic designer is to make sure a piece of static marketing content is visually appealing, easy to understand, and appropriately branded. Graphic designers generally create projects for print design mediums like magazines or brochures; however, they can also make static designs for websites, online ads, business cards, and social media pages.

Graphic designers need to have several skills to be successful. They need to know how to use different fonts and color schemes effectively. They need to know how to incorporate a company’s brand into marketing content. They also need to know how to use certain software like Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop.

Upwork can help you find the right graphic designers with the skills you need to complete your business projects. Our talent pool consists of remote workers from all over the world.

Web designer

Web designers build designs for websites, landing pages, and other online projects. Web designers need to take into account mobile devices like tablets and mobile phones when creating web content, as well. After web designers create prototypes of their webpages, they pass them off to web development teams to implement their work online.

Web designers need artistic skills and the ability to use various design software programs. They also need to understand how websites and applications operate to create projects that are easy to follow. Having some knowledge of front-end formatting languages like HTML and CSS can help web designers become more marketable.

If you’re in the process of beefing up your web presence, see how Upwork can introduce you to great web designers with the expertise you need.

UX designer

UX designers do copious amounts of research and testing to understand what users want out of a digital service like a website or application. They then create a wireframe of that digital project, complete with all the elements that will give a user the best possible overall experience.

UX designers need research and analytical skills. They need to know how to identify what users want out of digital products and what makes a digital project intuitive and engaging. They also should know how to use wireframing software like InVision Freehand or Sketch.

UX design is a multi-layered process. Use Upwork to find UX designers who understand exactly what visitors expect from your business site and who can implement those changes.

UI designer

UI designers take all the research and mockups that UX designers gather and use that knowledge to create a design for the interface of a digital project. UI designers create elements like buttons and decide where text and images should be.

UI designers only work on digital products. An interface is the touchpoint where a user interacts with a website or application. It should be visually appealing, on brand, and be simple to understand. UI designers experiment with things like color schemes and image placement to make interfaces intuitive.

UI designers need to know how to manage typography and organize information and images to give applications greater readability. They need to know how to create animations and interactive design elements that make interfaces more appealing. They also need to be able to design interfaces for a number of different screens, either through responsive or adaptive design.

With Upwork, you can secure UI designers who know exactly how clients interact with a digital product.

2D and 3D designer

2D and 3D designers work for a variety of companies. They can create building blueprints for businesses or characters and settings for production companies and video games, for example.

This type of designer needs to be able to use modeling software and 2D and 3D computer-aided design (CAD) programs like LibreCAD and NanoCAD. These designers also need top-notch spatial awareness to understand how objects fit together in their designs.

Quality 2D designers and 3D designers can bring unique and interesting images and animations to your business website. Upwork can help you find creative designers to liven your business content.

Why is analytics a key role in digital design?

As a business, you want to make sure your digital marketing projects are bringing attention to your company. Analytic tools can help you gauge how well your digital design projects are performing.

There are several analytics tools you can use to measure user engagement. For example, digital tools like Google Analytics and BrandMentions can help you keep track of social media key performance indicators (KPIs) like shares, page views, and likes on social media and other platforms. UX and UI designers also analyze things like heat maps (charts of user engagement), click rates, and how deep users scroll on a website.

Testing is another way designers can measure and improve user engagement. In A/B testing, for example, designers release two versions of a digital product like a landing page or a marketing email. The version that gets the most user engagement, or conversions, is the one that will ultimately be used.

Keeping track of user metrics is important because it shows you what’s working and what’s not working in your digital design. This lets you adjust your content and strategies to get the maximum impact from your material.

What makes digital design successful?

Good digital design doesn’t just happen. It needs to be well researched, targeted, and easy to interact with. Deciding whether a digital design project is successful depends on the goals you have for that project. For example, your goal for a marketing email might be to make 2,000 new sales in one month.

Different types of projects can have different objectives. The purpose of a pop-up form on your social media page might be to acquire user information and gather qualified leads, while the objective for a new app design might be to improve user experience and increase the number of people who use the app.

Why hire a digital designer?

There’s a lot that goes into creating effective digital content. A great digital designer can help you craft websites, applications, and ads that can attract new consumers to your business and grow your brand.

If you’re looking for great digital designers, take a look at Upwork’s giant talent pool of freelancers from all over the world. We’ll help you find and vet designers with the skills you need to complete your business goals.

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Digital Design: Technical and Creative Design Skills
The Upwork Team

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