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A Comprehensive Look into the Disciplines of Digital Design

Most people who are familiar with the world of digital graphics also recognize that there are dozens of unique disciplines out there. The Adobe suite alone has products for vector art, pixel graphics, motion graphics, animation, the list goes on. It’s practically impossible for one designer to practice all of these areas but it’s becoming more common for designers to adopt a few different skillsets.

photoshop imac computer design gui

In this post I’d like to cover a swath of various fields related to digital design. Modern designers often have a wide range of various skills dipping into a number of these fields. Someone who starts in graphic design might later move into After Effects or concept art or interface design. Digital art includes both 2D and 3D work that can be used in many different projects. Although the design process is always changing, the larger umbrella of design fields tends to remain somewhat consistent.

Identity/Branding

Designers who focus on branding typically have a keen eye for visual and textual association. Creating a recognizable brand requires either great lettering, great visuals, or potentially a combination of both. Identity expands on branding which gets embedded into company artifacts with logos and symbols.

Both large and small companies need reliable branding for marketing and business purposes. Logos can be placed on anything from websites to invoices and business cards. While some of the final products may be part of the physical world, branding usually starts digitally on the computer.

logo typefaces inspiration book

It’s also quite common that larger companies will update their branding over time. This can happen with new management or a proposal for a new marketing plan. Brand designers are specialists at matching tone, emotion, energy, and core message into simple letters and pictures.

Graphic Design

The process of creating digital graphics is initially confusing but highly rewarding. This skillset can veer into branding, websites, icon design, practically anything digital and graphic-related.

Many graphic designers also turn into the world of print design. This can be useful for a number of products like CD/DVD covers, magazines, and photo composites. Print and digital work both require graphics of varying degrees. Understanding how to create many different types of graphics can go a very long way.

Common tools are Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator which blend nicely into each other. Learning both of these programs will get you on the right track towards a job in graphic design.

Web & UI Design

Naturally we all know about the field of website design, or at least those of us who haven’t been in a coma for three decades. But this field has been gradually expanding to incorporate a wide variety of user interfaces. Mobile apps for Android and iOS have become much more popular in recent years.

There’s a large demand for great interface designers who can build mockups for websites, mobile apps, possibly even desktop programs. The nature of interface design revolves around the user.

Designers create graphical interfaces with buttons, links, banners, and other goodies you’d expect to find on an interface. This often weaves together graphic design with UI design and requires a lot of practice. But since everyone and their grandma needs a website this is a very lucrative field to practice.

Advertising

The realm of advertising expands into plenty of mediums from print to Internet and television/movies. Media is a big industry and one of the best methods to turn a profit in media is through advertising.

Digital advertising is meant to be ostentatious. You want to draw attention to graphics and hopefully entice visitors to click and read more. Print advertising works similarly but needs to leave more of a lasting impression. Out in the real world billboards and magazines don’t have the products available with the click of a mouse.

In general the field of advertising is broad since it encompasses a lot of different mediums. Video advertising has even expanded beyond television onto the Internet with mediums like YouTube. To become an advertising designer you should really study the basics of advertising and learn how to conjure certain emotions relative to products.

Graphic design and even some artistic training can help. A lot of the fundamentals behind great advertising ride on the presentation – not just what you’re saying but how you say it. Studying advertisements is a great way to learn about context and how to create it from any idea.

Typography

Almost everything in the digital world requires some typography. This is the field of design centered around crafting beautiful text whether it be a logo, monogram, landing page, or e-mail newsletter. Typography can be applied to almost every field of design but the most talented typographers often have a fixed attitude on design.

digital typography styles lettering

Oddly enough typography usually starts with pencil and paper. People who design typography like to practice calligraphy for building sketches of ideas before turning them digital. But the field is so varied that sometimes you can jump right into programs like Illustrator and learn how to manipulate typefaces without practicing your handwriting.

Most designers who work in other fields tend to study a little bit of typography. Those who focus solely on typography often branch into related fields such as company branding. I’d suggest learning even the basics of typography if you want to practice any digital design. It will come in handy over time and certainly prove useful on each new project.

Information Design

Infographics are a new method of communicating information with a vast audience around the world. These large informative graphics are created by people who research information and put it together in icons, charts, and graphical representations. The purpose is to convey very clear information relative to a detailed or confusing topic.

digital infographic funeral costs example

The practice involves a lot of graphic design and knowledge of composition. Infographic designers need to see the final product in their head and understand how to lay out statistics in a visual representation. There’s also a lot of writing involved when it comes to outlining the process and organizing how information should flow down the graphic.

Lots of blogs and websites pay designers to create infographics on certain topics. There is money to be made but you have to be good at it. Unfortunately there aren’t many tutorials online but if you start by practicing graphic design you’ll learn how to compose something that looks great and presents information in a concise manner.

Granted these are just a few examples of digital design fields but the realm of digital work is constantly expanding. I would encourage you to further research some of these topics or find others that sound intriguing. You never know which type of creative work you could excel at until you’ve tried.

Jake Rocheleau

Jake is a freelance writer and web developer. He writes articles for numerous blogs on freelancing, Wordpress, CSS3, and jQuery. You can find him all throughout Google and follow his tweets @<a href="http://twitter.com/jakerocheleau">jakerocheleau</a>. Connect with Jake on <a href="https://plus.google.com/117805273496374929333/posts">Google +</a>

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