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Digital Designers

The Job

Digital designers are graphic artists who use computer technology to convey ideas and information or help companies market and advertise their products and services. They create designs for e-books, digital advertisements, Web sites, and other products. While artistic talent is essential to work as a digital designer, it is even more important to have expertise in computer technology, especially the use of digital design software programs.

Whatever their specialty, all digital designers take a similar approach to a project, whether it is for an entirely new design or for a variation on an existing one. Digital designers begin by determining the needs and preferences of clients and potential users, buyers, or viewers.

For example, if a digital designer is working on the cover design of an e-book, he or she will likely meet with editorial managers and art directors to discuss such points as what the market will be for the book (children, adults, etc.) and what size, color, and design preferences they might have. Digital designers must have a good knowledge of how various colors, shapes, and layouts affect the viewer psychologically.

After a plan has been conceived and the details worked out, the digital designer creates some preliminary designs (generally two or three) to present to their managers for approval. They use Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign (all from software designer Adobe); QuarkXpress; or other page layout and design software to create the design samples. The managers may reject the preliminary designs entirely and request a new one, or they may ask the designer to make alterations. The designer then goes back to the "drawing board" to attempt a new design or make the requested changes. This process continues until the manager approves the design.

Once a design has been approved, the digital designer prepares the design for publication—either as an e-book or a print edition. 

Another common area of specialization for digital designers is Web site design. Here are some of the most popular specialties in the field.

Internet Advertising Designers

Internet advertising designers, also called interactive advertising designers, create advertising features for client Web sites using text, animation, and sound. They design graphic symbols and logos and revise existing designs for Web use. Designers often use animation or music clips on a site, for example, as part of the home page. They work with writers and Web developers to design promotions, such as surveys, quizzes or other games, to encourage users to revisit the site.

Internet advertising designers not only design and implement traditional advertising techniques on the Web, they are also responsible for making sure the advertising is effective. They constantly check the number of "hits" received by the site, but also find ways to keep users engaged on the site. Engagement is key in getting users to keep coming back to a site. User comments and other responses are monitored by Internet advertising designers and the site’s Webmaster to keep content fresh and exciting.

Flash Designers

Many Web sites use interactive animation as a way to grab users’ attention, whether as part of content, games, advertisements, animated menus, banners, pop-up windows, or scrolling text. Flash designers, sometimes known as Flash developers, are skilled at using Adobe Flash to create these animations. Flash is also used to create animations for smartphones, video games, and other digital devices.

For new projects, Flash designers work with members of the creative team or art department to come up with storyboard ideas and design concepts. They use various production tools to design animations, such as those to create shapes, or perhaps a pen tool to create lines or cut or distort shapes. Eraser tools are used in the editing process. Flash designers use scripting language such as HTML or ActionScript to create the final animation.

User Interface and Experience Designers

What is the difference between a poorly designed Web site and a site that is organized and easy to use? Good user interface designers and user experience designers. Interface designers suggest ways to place data and visual images on a Web site and their links in an orderly and attractive way, allowing users to quickly find information and use site features. Interface designers create icons, symbols, color schemes, and informational layouts in a way that is both pleasing and easily downloadable. Interface designers should know how to use software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, QuarkXpress, JavaScript, Flash, and PowerPoint. They should also have a basic understanding of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Interface designers are also responsible for usability testing. After they have designed the features of a Web site, they try out the features to make sure that they are easy to understand and use. This helps to identify and solve potential problems with interfaces, making them more user-friendly.

“User experience design as a discipline is concerned with all the elements that together make up that interface, including layout, visual design, text, brand, sound, and interaction,” according to the User Experience Professionals Association. “User experience works to coordinate these elements to allow for the best possible interaction by users.” At some employers the work of user experience designers and user interface designers are combined, while at some companies, they have distinct job duties.  

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