How to Become a Digital Designer

How to Become a Digital Designer: The Complete Guide

by Mads Soegaard | | 23 min read
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Every company, brand, and individual wants to make a mark and aspires to stand out in the fast-paced, ever-evolving digital landscape. While there are several ways to do so, one thing that is non-negotiable for businesses today is digital design

Interestingly, 93% of all brand communication is visual, with a significant portion involving digital design. This highlights the growing importance of a digital designer career

So, if you're tech-savvy and interested in visual design, becoming a digital designer can be your calling. When you become a digital designer, you'll be the magician who helps brands stand out with creative and engaging visuals. 

If you’re still wondering what digital design is and what digital designers do, we've got you covered. This article also gives you the scoop on everything—from the skills you need to the salary you can expect when you step into your career as a digital designer

What Is Digital Design?

Digital design is a vast field that encompasses various design disciplines, including graphic design, illustrations, user interface design, user experience design, animation, and much more. 

So, when you come across the title ‘digital designer,’ it could refer to any or all of the above-mentioned design disciplines. 

Digital Design Disciplines

Digital Design Disciplines

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

With an overwhelming number of digital devices available today, there are a vast number of use cases that design must reckon with. That’s where digital design comes in. Digital design involves creating visuals that are digitally inclusive with proper design aesthetics, user experience, intuitiveness, accessibility, and interactivity for different devices and platforms. The platforms generally include websites, mobile apps, online ads, commercial ads, and social media. And the devices could be mobiles, tablets, laptops, TV screens, or the latest, tiny watch screens. 

What’s best about digital design is that once you are thorough with the best practices, you feel like you have learned different languages. Moreover, it helps you communicate better with tech teams and understand all sides of a project.

What Does a Digital Designer Do?

As a digital designer, you may have to deal with various types of visuals on a regular basis. It could be anything from static graphics to animated gifs and videos to the aesthetics of UX and UI design. The ultimate goal is to create compelling visuals for digital screens that users can interact with. 

You are not bound to use one design software for creating different types of digital designs. Given the dynamic nature of the role, you may have to work with multiple pieces of software and digital tools simultaneously. A few of the standard design software programs that you must have proficiency in include:

  • Adobe Illustrator

  • Adobe Photoshop

  • Adobe InDesign

  • Adobe Premiere Pro

  • Figma

  • Sketch

Digital designers can find work in almost every industry out there. It is so because everyone needs a good visual representation of their brand today. That said, keeping up with emerging trends in different industries is also vital. Therefore, it’s best to upskill to design visuals that meet the evolving requirements of the industry.

Is There a Difference Between Digital Design and Graphic Design?

The creative industry mainly uses the term ‘graphic design’ to refer to every static design intended for visual communication. But because of various similarities between graphic and digital designers, the two terms overlap and are used interchangeably. To highlight a few similarities, both types of designers:

  • Use the same design software, including Adobe Creative Suite.

  • Use the same design principles and techniques.

  • Apply visual and color theories.

  • Design for a broad range of platforms.

  • Must be creative thinkers.

  • Must have a good understanding of visual communication.

The most prominent factor that sets the two apart is the medium. Graphic designers usually design for both print and digital mediums. They have a better understanding of print design technologies and techniques. On the other hand, digital designers create and deal with visuals only for digital mediums. 

Digital Design Process

Digital Design Process

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

Graphic designers usually design the following types of items:

  • Logos

  • Brochures

  • Pamphlets

  • Magazine and Newspaper Layouts

  • Posters

  • Banner Ads

  • Hoardings

  • Infographics

  • Book Covers

  • Design Guides or Brand Books

Digital designers usually create the following types of items:

  • Logo Animation

  • Digital Ads (Static and Video)

  • Motion Graphics

  • Digital Banners

  • Web Design

  • UI and UX Visuals

  • 3D Graphics

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(Learn about user experience design in detail.)

Skills Required to Become a Digital Designer

Being a digital creative designer isn't just about proficiency in design software. Since you’d work alongside a web developer and other team members, you need a diverse skill set. This includes technical expertise, design flair, and excellent communication skills to succeed in this dynamic field. 

Essential Skills for Digital Designers

Essential Skills for Digital Designers

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

Here’s a list of technical skills you must learn:

If you're looking to build a successful digital design career, it's essential to broaden your horizons and develop a diverse set of talents. 

Take a course to learn more about accessibility in design. | Accessibility: How to Design for All by the IxDF

In addition to technical skills, learning specific soft skills is also vital. With the right mix of technical know-how and interpersonal finesse, you'll be well on your way to becoming a top-notch digital design pro. Here’s a list of common soft skills you might need:

  • Effective communication (verbal and visual)

  • Problem-Solving

  • Creative Thinking 

  • Critical Thinking

  • Attention to detail

  • Collaboration

  • Time management

  • Project Management

  • Emotional Intelligence

  • Presentation 

If you’re considering where to learn these technical and soft skills, you can start by reading various blog posts on the internet by reputable institutions. Next, you can also apply for three- to six-week-long courses offered by the IxDF to gain expertise in a particular skill.

Digital Designer Salaries

If you plan to become a digital designer, it’s only natural to think about how much you could make annually in this profession.

Given the high demand for visual design in multiple industries, there are plenty of designer jobs for this role. However, the salary of a digital designer varies depending on various factors, including location, job title, working hours, technical designer skills, years of experience, company size, and reputation, to name a few. 

Job Titles in Digital Design

Job Titles in Digital Design

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

To give you a fair idea, as of March 2023, Glassdoor suggests you can earn an average of $80,651 /yr as a Jr. digital designer and $101,296 /yr as a Sr. digital designer in the United States. 

Digital Designer Salary Ranges

Digital Designer Salary Ranges

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

Statistics show that, on average, digital designers specializing in product design or user experience design can make more than $100K /yr. Therefore, you can consider a career change from digital design to any UX design role for a better pay grade.

Freelance Opportunities vs. Full-Time Employment in Digital Design

Now that you know that digital design is a dynamic profession, you also know that this field has many work opportunities. You could become a graphic designer, animator, motion graphics designer, UX or UI designer, interaction designer, digital experiences designer and more. 

But the question is, should you work as a full-time employee or freelancer? 

To better understand and make an informed decision, look at the pros and cons of freelancing and a full-time job.

Pros and Cons of Freelancing

Pros

Cons

Freedom and flexibility to work on projects of your choice. 

The whole business rests on you. 

Set your own delivery timeline. 

Teamworking, steady income, and employee benefits are likely to be limited.

Flexibility to work remotely.

Search for new projects and opportunities regularly.

Decide how many projects to take on at a time. 

Do digital marketing for yourself, and be your own sales manager, promoter, and recruiter.

Enjoy multiple sources of income. 

Sometimes, you may have to work more than 12 hours a day. 


So, based on the pros and cons, whether you choose to freelance or seek a full-time job depends on your preferences. 

Pros and Cons of Full-Time Employment

Pros

Cons

Highly interactive and collaborative environment. 

No freedom to work on projects of your preference.

Enjoy a steady and regular income.

The opportunity for flexible working hours is limited. 

Benefit from company-sponsored training opportunities. 

Face the constant pressure to level up.

Enjoy company-sponsored healthcare insurance.

Lack of versatility in the resume.

Work on a fixed schedule, and then you have time for extra learning or your personal life.

Only a single source of income where you have to wait for promotion. 

How to Become a Digital Designer

Congratulations, you've made it to the end of this piece. This means you're one step closer to understanding what it takes to be a digital designer. While it is a diverse field with many specializations, don't worry. You can find your niche and thrive in this burgeoning industry with the right skills and mindset. 

So, take a good look at your strengths and passions, research the different design roles, and get ready to take the design world by storm. With the right mentorship and a commitment to best practices, you'll be a digital design superstar in no time!

Apply for the course on Visual Design by the IxDF to gain a better insight into the digital design world. 

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Soegaard, M. (2023, June 12). How to Become a Digital Designer: The Complete Guide. Interaction Design Foundation - IxDF.

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The Basics of User Experience Design

Download our free ebook The Basics of User Experience Design to learn about core concepts of UX design.

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