Last Updated on December 30th, 2020
Design, in this world of rapid transformations has been through more than we give it credit for. It has passed and survived eras of technological advancements, transitioning from one phase into another as the world kept changing its mind!
Today, the most trending two words on every advertising agency / brand’s to-do-list is Digital Design. We’re hearing these words more than Graphic Design though digital design itself has its roots in the former. In a nutshell the definition of digital design would be any design that is created from digital tools and made for a digital platform, but that’s just too vague to actually understand the technicalities of digital designing and the kinds of design which are part of this family.
What’s important to comprehend here is that with the increasing number of digital devices, there’s no one source or style of designing which applies to all of them! Every device and advertising medium has its own requirement and a separate demand so technology has its pros and cons for digital designers all over.
Still perplexed? Let me be your guide. Starting off with the basics of what exactly is digital design, allow me to enlighten you on the various aspects of digital design and what exactly is the significance of digital design for your brand?
As explained in a nutshell above, digital design is simply any graphics-oriented communication which is designed specifically for digital mediums such as computers, tablets or mobiles. A term quite popular today is UI design or user interface designing which roughly elaborated means that digital design is meant to make life easier for the user across different mediums. So for instance the web page you’re viewing on your phone might be different from the one you see on your laptop/computer! Yeah, that’s the kind of labor digital designers need to go through nowadays to make sure you’re seeing and using it “right”. Seen Facebook’s new desktop layout recently? Does it differ from the one you see on your phones? Just a digital design thing!
Don’t worry, both of these pillars of designing are on very good terms yet they do have their differences in terms of what they may be used for and how do their respective designers work. Firstly, to clear some fog, it’s important to know that graphic design’s existence dates back to when logo designing, packaging and outdoor advertising actually began thus it encompasses mostly design which is related to print advertising. On the other hand, digital design as the name implies is purely a field of designing which is restricted to designing for digital platforms/devices.
Nevertheless these two, as stated above are interconnected with each other such that the difference of a graphic designer and a digital designer is not even acknowledged by many! Though a digital designer may not always be a graphic designer, the former may require the assistance of the latter quite often. This is because digital design may borrow ideas and design techniques from graphic design. A digital designer may have to take a leaf out of the graphic designer’s rule book!
Here’s another relative from the digital family that causes some confusion: developers!
Are Digital Designers the same as digital developers? The one word answer would be: NO! Nevertheless these two sort of co-exist in any organization and unless we’ve got a super hero / heroin who is both digital designer and developer, the system operates like a relay race where the designer hands over the stick to the developer.
The digital designer creates an off-line version of any digital design which then needs the services of a developer to be functional. So for instance a website design or newsletter design is just an artwork before a developer makes it operational by using certain codes and procedures.
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They are a close knit group but each has its own specific purpose! Here I’m about to highlight the various types of digital designs which exist and trust me there must be a lot more yet to be discovered as technology continues to evolve more rapidly than we can enhance our skills.
Website Design (the newbie): As the name suggests these are digital designs which are specifically made for websites and may include anything from website mock designs, web banners to newsletters and other forms of e-commerce branding. Even though web designers are specific to their fields, this era calls for a one man show where graphic designers are expected to design content for websites as well! Time to polish our skills I suppose.
Landing page designs (the attention seeker): many SEO writers are of course already aware of what landing pages are and of their significance in marketing. These are pages that are pivoted towards selling a particular product/service by making customers land on the pages while browsing for whatever they are interested in. However, from a design perspective landing pages need to have uniformity and that’s where a digital designer’s work begins! All landing pages need to be designed in a user friendly format while having an evident relationship with each other. So no pressure!
Graphic Design (the oldest one): you may have come across several job posts with the title “Graphic Designer required urgently”. The Job description may be as such “must be proficient in all sorts of designing software and must have experience in digital design”. My point? Although digital design must be distinguished from conventional graphic design, the two BFFs are inseparable. There is nevertheless a very thin line (almost non-existent) between a digital designer and a graphic designer (as already explained in details previously).
In a nutshell: Modern graphic design is mostly associated with social media posts or campaigns where digital marketing takes the lead though conventional graphic design was speculated to solely be linked to package design or OOH / print advertising designs.
Infographic design (the talker): Many a times, you’d have to engage your viewers and convince them to read content which may otherwise seem mundane. That’s where info graphic design takes the lead. These use animations and motion graphics to make the story “interesting” for the readers. Mostly used in corporate communications or awareness posts, infographics too are an integral part of digital designing.
Email design (the smart back-bencher): Ever came across a newsletter from your favorite brand, declaring their new collection launch or a Sale announcement that pops up in your inbox? Email designs may seem irrelevant to focus on but they are highly underrated. A sensible, well-reputed brand would always hire a professional digital designer to make these extremely important email designs. Trust me, these need thorough research of what might grab the customer’s attention and serve as a significant part of digital design.
Social media page design (the most popular one): Did you know that a good blog would seldom be read if it isn’t beautified by a digital designer? That’s because people see first and read later! Visuals are an important part of social media design and almost every social media platform being utilized for promotions or advertising needs an exceptional page design. Ever laid eyes on Instagram grids? Only a skilled digital designer knows the dynamics of creating an insta-grid without causing clutter.
Banner ads (the crowd catcher): these fall into the same category as OOH advertising (Billboards) and print ads with one major advantage; banner ads are clickable! You may have seen those ads which pop up on the top of a web page or even social media pages. These banners are designed to capture interest and eventually persuade the customer to click and buy!
UX Design (the over-friendly one): User Experiences design, commonly known as UX design is a not so distant cousin of digital design and thus one can seldom be separated from the other. These digital designs focus on multiple aspects of advertising to come up with various solutions that can improve the experience of users across diverse mediums and are an integral part of (though not restricted to) digital design.
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It may seem like a piece of cake but really digital designing is as complicated as it can get. For starters, every platform has a different requirement and even though a design may seem appealing it may just not cater to the needs of a brand!
Remember the 4 R-s when aiming to create a great digital design.
Research: Your design should be a problem solver instead of being nothing more than a piece of art. A well-researched design always hits the mark and caters to the target market / audience, keeping in mind their dynamics, lifestyle, taste and a lot more. A good design is co-dependent on good market research and a clear idea of what the client/customer needs!
Readable: This is where UI design comes into the limelight. Even though as an artist you might want that sky is the limit approach but let’s be practical: you need to follow certain dos and don’ts for your digital design to make an impact and fulfill its purpose. An expert level digital designer knows just the kind of design that can be adjusted on different screen sizes and still be readable to the viewers. Font usage plays a vital role here since it’s not always about the font you like but the font that’s readable and appropriate for the kind of brand / post / banner you’re working on.
Response-oriented: At the end of the day a good digital design is only as good as the response it generates from users. This is why “number of clicks” is so important today to judge whether or not a design attracted response from viewers.
Revisable: “Well my work here is done, I can finally close my eyes”. That’s a dream that may never come true for a digital designer. Even though you’ve got the approvals and your work is now live, you may never know what’s coming next! The problem is, you’re the only one with the solution to any changes that might be needed depending on the circumstances or just a change of mind! Hence, remember to create designs which can easily be adapted and revised.
Who doesn’t would be the right question to ask and I can barely think of any answers apart from maybe really small vendors who don’t rely on building their brand name. The era calls to every brand “Be smart, be digital” and that sums up the answer. Brand growth in the digital world needs digital design the importance of which has especially been acknowledged amid the Covid-19 pandemic where brands started relying on e-commerce or online marketing to promote their brand and generate sales!
Waqas D. is the co-founder of the branding and website agency, FullStop™. He supercharges brands by crafting memorable logos, brand identities and engaging websites. Besides thousands of startups and medium-size businesses, FullStop has worked with likes of Microsoft & L’Oréal. View our portfolio or get in touch.
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