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Job Description: Digital Designer

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In their primary role, digital designers combine their creativity and technical skills to produce digital graphics for computer and electronic games, websites, movie special effects, and more. Some digital designers might create graphics for brochures or fliers; some might create 2- or 3-D graphics; still, others might lend their skills to animating graphics for educational or corporate training videos.

Regardless of their field or media, digital designers work with artists and illustrators in the conceptualisation phase, create templates, produce mock-ups, improve the quality of existing graphics, and run user testing on website and game features.

Digital design is a diverse role that encompasses many design disciplines, creating everything from web graphics to mobile apps to eBook covers. In some companies, the digital designer will focus on just one aspect of digital design, while others require their designers to be able to participate in a variety of projects.

Job Description and Benefits

Digital designer jobs can be in advertising firms, video game manufacturers, corporate marketing departments, movie studios, or website design companies. The overall projected employment growth rate for digital designers is 10% between 2016-2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The continued demand for high-quality and realistic graphics for games and special effects, as well as mobile devices, will be the biggest factor in this expected job growth rate.

A list of typical digital designer main responsibilities includes:-

  • Generating high-quality graphics and computer animations
  • Creating, managing, and producing digital design solutions for a variety of uses: websites, product graphics, email templates, social media graphics, brand campaigns, and photography.
  • Designing and creating prototypes and mock-ups
  • Translating creative concepts into visual design by working with cross-functional teams to take ideas from concept to execution, working with project managers, design teams, information technologists, and content experts.
  • Testing designs for usability and quality     
  • Using digital design and development tools to create digital designs and may have front-end development skills to convert data to a graphical interface, such as through HTML, CSS, and Javascript.
  • Making necessary improvements to existing graphics

Digital designers must be familiar with various tools used to complete their daily tasks. If you have the desire to become a digital designer, you should have a strong understanding of the following:

Programming languages – digital designers must be adept at using various languages to design web pages and applications, such as HTML and CSS.

Adobe Creative Suite software – from Dreamweaver to Photoshop, digital designers should be adept at the various Adobe software that would help them in web development and graphic design.

Project management concepts – scheduling, cost, and time management are a few project management phases that digital designers should be familiar with when working on various types of projects

What does a digital designer do?

To accomplish their daily tasks, digital designers must meet and satisfy various demands.

Conceptualise Art for Print and Digital Designs

Digital designers work with artists and illustrators to produce digital animation for various projects, such as websites, online magazines, advertisement materials, and videos. They are usually responsible for creating templates and mock-ups to review with artists and management before submitting the finished product.

Improve Existing Designs

While in many cases digital designers provide digital images for new orders, they also might be assigned the task of improving existing graphics and images for websites or videos. Digital designers make suggestions, provide updated images and implement approved changes as instructed.

Perform Usability Tests

For digital designers who are involved in game or video production, it is usually their responsibility to conduct usability tests on animated projects. At this stage, digital designers can spot any flaws or issues in their designs and make corrections and improvements to enhance user experience.

Hours and Environment

Regardless of the types of projects a digital designer works on, they tend to follow a similar pattern for actually completing that work. They start by assessing the needs of the customer along with any design specifications from the brand or other stakeholders. 

They create wireframes or design mockups for approval, make changes to those based on feedback from stakeholders (including results of A/B tests with users), and then deliver the final design to other teams (such as developers) who will implement the design.

As well as attending meetings and briefings with clients and teammates, senior digital designers will be based in an office environment and may occasionally have to work hours outside the regular nine to five working day.

Salary and other benefits

The median annual salary for digital designers in the US is $65,300. Top earners, meanwhile, can be paid more than $115,960. Those employed by software publishers and computer system design companies tend to be paid the highest median annual wages in the industry. 

In the UK, the average salary for a digital designer is £37,499 and salaries range from £32,499 to £47,499.

Skills and Personal Qualities

To find success in this field as a top digital designer, creatives should display stronger than average creative, organisational, and time management skills. They should be detail-oriented self-starters who can easily multitask and who understand project management stages. 

Excellent presentation, communication, and computer skills are essential. It is also important for digital designers to be team players that can handle criticism and implement suggestions to improve animated designs. In addition to these abilities, it is crucial that digital designers possess the following skills:-

  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • In-depth digital design capabilities
  • Confidence to delegate tasks
  • Significant industry experience
  • The ability to keep a cool head and meet deadlines
  • Problem-solving skills
  • The ability to think creatively and deliver clever concepts
  • The foresight to put themselves in the shoes of the user
  • Meticulous attention to detail
  • Significant graphic design experience

Interests

It is important for digital designers to have an interest in:-

  • The latest trends in technology and within the industry
  • Graphic design
  • Coding in common languages such as HTML and CSS
  • The creative industries

Getting in

For most digital designer jobs you will likely need to have been working in the industry for some time and have an extensive portfolio of design work that showcases your creativity and familiarity with digital design. You will also need proven experience of working within a competitive workplace.

Vacancies for digital designers attract strong competition so speculative applications are advisable.

Entry for young people

Employers typically want digital designers with the following core skills:-

  • A bachelor’s degree in digital design, graphic design, graphic communications or related field.
  • A minimum 5 years of successful professional design experience, preferably at a digital agency or in-house Web team for a product-driven business
  • A strong portfolio of design work, showing solutions to business problems through effective design
  • The ability to present concepts and lead internal teams to the correct solution
  • Experience in web marketing/web design with a strong knowledge of HTML, Photoshop, FTP, web design and development principles
  • Deep knowledge of web design processes
  • Experience designing e-commerce websites or advertising
  • A strong work ethic and personal accountability
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Strong time management skills
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Proficiency with Adobe Creative Suite products, Photoshop in particular

Entry for adults

While entry is open to non-graduates, preference is given to those with relevant degrees. A degree in graphic design is advantageous, although other art and design subjects will be accepted. A range of relevant postgraduate programmes are also available in many higher education institutions.

Training

The majority of training will be undertaken on the job. There are, however, several courses online that act as introductions to the world of digital design technology. These will allow you to understand the basics of digital design and help you develop skills from computer aided design to animation and cover topics such as rigging, keyframing, rendering and more.

Getting On

The typical digital design career path for top digital designers begins as a junior graphic designer at a creative agency or an in-house design team at a big company. From there you might seek to progress through to senior designer, art director, creative director and beyond. 

Alternatively, there’s the freelance route. Many digital designers go freelance once they’ve got a few years’ job experience. Whether you’re a freelance or salaried designer, you may find that the digital design career path leads you to an area of specialisation. If there’s something you have a real passion for, that’s a smart move, as good people with specialised skills will always be in demand.

Another industry that’s open to you is marketing and advertising. Being experienced in digital design means you’re able to brief creatives on all aspects of communications, from brochure copy to web design, and so you’re in a great place to apply for jobs such as digital marketing manager.

Further Reading

Becoming a Graphic and Digital Designer: A Guide to Careers in Design by Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne - Design has become a multi-platform activity that involves aesthetic, creative, and technical expertise. Becoming a Graphic and Digital Designer shows readers that the field once known as "graphic design" is now richer and more inviting than ever before.

Becoming a Digital Designer: A Guide to Careers in Web, Video, Broadcast, Game and Animation Design by Steven Heller and David Womack - Featuring over 45 interviews with leading digital designers and more than 225 illustrations, the book covers everything from education and training, design specialities, and work settings to preparing an effective portfolio and finding a job. This is an ideal starting point for anyone considering a career in the digital design world.

The Digital Designer's Bible by Alistair Dabbs and Alastair Campbell - Designers are working these days in a complex web of technologies. This practical reference provides the essential resources that every good designer needs at their fingertips. From how to get the best results out of the computer software and equipment to how you can avoid errors that bring disaster to schedules, client confidence and ultimately costs. The Digital Designer's Bible is the much longed-for-rule book that every digital designer will both want and need.

Agile Experience Design by Lindsay Ratcliffe and Marc McNeill Ratcliffe - This is the missing book about agile development methodologies that shows how designers, product managers, and development teams can integrate experience design into lean and agile product development. It equips you with tools, techniques and a framework for designing great experiences using agile methods so you can deliver timely products that are technically feasible, profitable for the business, and desirable from an end-customer perspective.

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