It’s nearly impossible to imagine our life without digital tools and technology. We interact with many digital devices daily, and for many people checking their smartphones is the first thing they do in the morning.
With the rise of technology and our dependence on it, it’s never been more critical for businesses and individuals to understand the role of digital design. From creating a website to building an outstanding social media presence–the evolving practice is responsible for crafting the digital experiences we’re familiar with today.
In this complete guide to digital design, we’ll discuss everything you need to know to get started in digital format and take your skills to the next level. The following topics are covered:
What is a digital design
Digital design refers to creating digital products, like websites and mobile apps. The ultimate goal of digital strategy is to communicate a message using visual elements, making designs that are both aesthetically pleasing while being functional or informational.
The results of digital design can be a significant asset for small businesses and personal brands, allowing them to create a strong visual identity that stands out from competitors. A well-designed website, social media profiles, and other digital assets establish credibility and build trust with potential customers–and can also be an effective way to market products or services.
Digital design encompasses various fields, such as web design, graphic design, user interface design, game design, 3D modeling, and animation, which we’ll review below.
The evolution of digital design
Digital design has evolved rapidly over the last few decades–its evolution is driven both by advancements in technology and changes in consumer behavior. The field of digital design first started to get traction in the 1960s with the development of computer graphics.
In the 70s and 80s, people started to use computers to create graphic works, and the first computer-aided design (CAD) software was introduced. CAD is the use of computers to aid in creating, modifying, analyzing, or optimizing a design.
The next colossal leap happened with the advent of the World Wide Web (WWW) in the 1990s. This marked a significant turning point for digital design because it gave users access to unlimited amounts of information–and with this, a new category of digital design called web design merged. We started using HTML and CSS to create websites and design software such as Adobe Photoshop became widely used for digital image editing and graphic design.
During the first decade of the 21st century, we witnessed another advancement in digital design with the widespread adoption of mobile devices and mobile internet. This led to the need to adjust designs to various screen sizes and resolutions, and new concepts called responsive and adaptive design emerged. Both present a significant shift in how digital designers approach their work, providing solutions to allow websites to adapt content and imagery for different screen sizes.
2023 is a breakthrough year for artificial intelligence–the rapid development of artificial intelligence and machine learning has a significant impact on digital design. For example, tools for AI web design, image editing, and logo design are increasingly being used to automate tasks. In contrast, machine learning algorithms improve the user experience through personalized recommendations and content.
Digital design vs. graphic design
Graphic design is a subset of digital design, although the two are often confused. Graphic designers emphasize the visual impact and aesthetic, which is only one design part. Digital designers, on the other hand, focus on a product’s look and feel–and by “feel,” we mean functionality and the user experience. This means that digital designers need to consider how users interact with the digital product and aim to design elements that are both attractive and easy to use.
Types of digital design
Digital design encompasses a wide range of specialties, and here are some of the most common:
Web design involves the creation of visually appealing and functional websites. Website design includes:
Arranging web page layouts.
Choosing visual attributes such as a color scheme and typography to communicate a key message.
Finding the right balance of decorative and functional elements to engage the user.
If you’re interested in learning more about web design, consider checking our website design guide.
App design refers to creating the look and feel of a mobile or desktop application. App creation includes digital design elements like user interface design, graphic elements, animations, and interaction patterns.
Social media design
Social media design refers to the content created on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Social media design aims to engage and entertain users while promoting brand awareness and driving engagement.
Landing page design
Landing page design is creating the layout and visual design of a landing page for a business. A landing page is the first page a visitor lands on after clicking a link from a search engine, social media, or another webpage. A landing page aims to convert visitors into customers by offering relevant information and a clear call to action.
User interface design focuses on designing user interfaces for digital products like websites and mobile apps. UI designers create the look and feel of digital interfaces while crafting interactions and animation effects.
User experience (UX) design is a discipline that focuses on a person’s overall experience when interacting with the design of a product or service. It encompasses a wide range of design considerations, including the information architecture in development, the design of individual screens/pages, and the setting up of a seamless system of navigation and interactions.