It's nearly impossible to imagine our life without digital tools and technology. We interact with many digital devices daily, and for many people checking their smartphones is the first thing they do in the morning.
With the rise of technology and our dependence on it, it's never been more critical for businesses and individuals to understand the role of digital design. From creating a website to building an outstanding social media presence—the evolving practice is responsible for crafting the digital experiences we’re familiar with today.
In this complete guide to digital design, we'll discuss everything you need to know to get started in digital design and take your own design concept and skills to the next level. The following topics are covered:
What is a digital design?
Digital design refers to the creation of digital products, like websites and mobile apps. The ultimate goal of digital design is to communicate a message using visual elements, making designs that are both aesthetically pleasing while being functional or informational.
The results of digital design can be a major asset for small businesses and personal brands, allowing them to create a strong visual identity that stands out from competitors. A well-designed website, social media profiles, and other digital assets establish credibility and build trust with potential customers—and can also be an effective way to market products or services.
Digital design encompasses various fields, such as web design, graphic design, user interface design, game design, 3D modeling, and animation, which we’ll go over below.
The evolution of digital design
Digital design has evolved rapidly over the last few decades—its evolution driven both by advancements in technology and changes in consumer behavior. The field of digital design first started to get traction in the 1960s, with the development of computer graphics.
In the 70s and 80s, people started to use computers to create graphic works, and the first computer-aided design (CAD) software was introduced. CAD is the use of computers to aid in creating, modifying, analyzing, or optimizing a design.
The next huge leap happened with the advent of the World Wide Web (WWW) in the 1990s. This marked a significant turning point for digital design because it gave users access to unlimited amounts of information—and with this, a new category of digital design called web design merged. We started using HTML and CSS to create websites, and design software such as Adobe Photoshop became widely used for digital image editing and graphic design.
During the first decade of the 21st century, we witnessed yet another advancement in digital design, with the widespread adoption of mobile devices and mobile internet. This led to the need to adjust designs to various screen sizes and resolutions, and new concepts called responsive and adaptive design emerged. Both present a significant shift in how digital designers approach their work, providing solutions to allow websites to adapt content and imagery for different screen sizes.
2023 is a breakthrough year for artificial intelligence—the rapid development of artificial intelligence and machine learning has a significant impact on digital design. For example, tools for AI web design, image editing and logo design are increasingly being used to automate tasks, while machine learning algorithms are being used to improve the user experience through personalized recommendations and content.
Tip: With Wix Columns, your website automatically adjusts and stacks content vertically based on the screen size or device being used to view it. This ensures that your website maintains its functionality and visual appeal across various platforms.
Digital design vs. graphic design
Graphic design is a subset of digital design, although the two are often confused. Graphic designers place more emphasis on the visual impact and aesthetic, which is only one part of the design. Digital designers, on the other hand, focus on both the look and feel of a product—and by “feel,” we mean functionality and the user experience. This means that digital designers need to consider how users interact with the digital product and aim to design elements that are both attractive and easy to use.
Types of digital design
Digital design encompasses a wide range of specialties, and here are some of the most common:
Web design involves the creation of visually appealing and functional websites. Website design includes the arrangement of web pages layouts (for example, asymmetry vs symmetry), choosing visual attributes such as a color scheme and typography to communicate a key message, and finding the right balance of decorative and functional elements to engage the user.
If you’re interested in learning more about web design, consider checking our guide on how to design a website.
App design refers to the process of creating the look and feel of a mobile or desktop application. Creating an app includes digital design elements like user interface design, graphic elements, animations and interaction patterns.
Social media design
Social media design refers to the content created for use on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Social media design aims to engage and entertain users while promoting brand awareness and driving engagement.
Landing page design
Landing page design is the process of creating the layout and visual design of a landing page for a business. A landing page is the first page a visitor lands on after clicking on a link from a search engine, social media or another webpage. Building a landing page aims to convert visitors into customers by offering them relevant information and a clear call to action.
User interface design focuses on the design of user interfaces for digital products, such as websites and mobile apps. UI designers create the look and feel of digital interfaces while also crafting the interactions and animation effects.
User experience (UX) design is a discipline that focuses on the overall experience that a person has when interacting with the design of a product or service. It encompasses a wide range of design considerations, including the information architecture in a product, the design of individual screens/pages and setting up a seamless system of navigation and interactions.
3D design involves the creation of three-dimensional models for digital products such as data visualizations, games and movies.
Email design refers to creating visually appealing and effective layouts, usually for email marketing purposes. Email design aims to communicate a message to recipients and encourage them to take a specific action, such as making a purchase.
Logo design is the process of creating a unique and recognizable symbol that represents a company, product, or service. A logo is often the first visual representation of a brand that customers see, and it plays an essential role in building brand recognition and credibility.
When creating a new logo, digital designers can do it from scratch or use a logo maker, a special tool that makes it easier to generate new ideas and inspiration.
Infographic design is the process of taking data or knowledge and turning it into a visual representation. Infographics are often used in presentations, reports and websites to improve the way information is presented and clarify it for the viewer. By communicating complex details in a simpler manner, infographic design makes it accessible to a broader audience.
What does a digital designer do?
The role of a digital designer encompasses a wide range of responsibilities, including from planning visual concepts to developing user interfaces. Depending on the area of specialities and the brands they work with, the actual responsibilities can vary, but the global goal stays the same. Digital designers' main goal is to enhance the user experience by creating visually appealing and user-friendly digital products.
Anyone who chooses to be a digital designer needs to remember that becoming a great designer takes time, dedication and hard work. Still, with persistence, you can achieve your goals and become the one who shapes the future of technology. If this is for you, as you gain experience and refine your skills, you should consider building an online portfolio of your work.This portfolio should showcase your best designs and demonstrate your abilities as a digital designer.
How to create engaging digital content
Digital design is an essential aspect of modern life. With the continued growth of technology and more intense competition in the market, it's more critical than ever to invest in creating great product design. That being said—it doesn't always require you to hire a professional.
There are many ways to succeed on your own. To make the most of digital design, you need relevant technical skills, an understanding of design principles, and an awareness of the latest design trends. Whether you’re interested in hiring a digital designer, using the help of tools to dive into your own creation process, or even becoming a professional designer yourself—the following guideines can help you integrate digital design and use it to your advantage.
Conceptualize and create visual designs
This includes brainstorming ideas, sketching concepts, and creating wireframes, mockups, and prototypes of future products. To optimize this conceptual process, use your understanding of human psychology and design principles like color theory, typography, and composition.
Produce digital content
This involves writing text copy and creating graphics and animations for various types of products—from websites and mobile apps to social media posts and digital advertising campaigns.
Conduct user research
Conducting user research can help gain insights about user behavior. By understanding how users interact with digital products, you’ll know what improvements should be made to provide a better user experience.
Collaborate with cross-functional teams
You can work closely with professional designers, developers, product managers, and marketers to ensure that your designs are aligned with business goals and user needs.
Present designs and collect feedback
Present your designs to stakeholders and team members to receive feedback and make changes to ensure that your designs are in line with your brand identity, meet the needs of users and your own business objectives.
Acquire technical skills
You may need to familiarize yourself with the software digital designers use to create products. We will cover some of the popular and helpful digital design tools below.
Learn the latest trends
Digital products evolve all the time, and digital designers must be aware of the newest design techniques and trends in the tech industry. That's why exploring mobile and web design inspiration is an integral part of designers' daily routines.
Gain practical experience creating digital products
You need to have hands-on skills to create a decent digital design. Choose a particular type of digital design and invest your time and effort in mastering the craft. In our guide on how to become a web designer, we’ve explored the specific steps web designers have to take to gain relevant experience in web design.
5 must-know digital design tools
Here is a list of some popular tools that can help you make the most of the digital design process:
Wix is an industry leader in web design. It's a sophisticated website design tool that provides users with a range of components and ready-to-use website templates to help them design their own websites in no time, even if they have no prior web development experience.
02. Adobe Creative Suite
Adobe Creative Suite is a comprehensive set of tools for digital design, including Photoshop for image editing, Illustrator for vector graphics, and InDesign for layout and typography.
Sketch is a design tool that is widely used for interface design and a collaboration platform for digital designers.
Figma is a cloud-based design tool that allows designers to create and collaborate on user interface designs in real-time. This tool is known for its simplicity and user-friendly interface.
Canva is a graphic design platform that allows users with little or no design experience to create a wide range of digital content—from social media graphics to presentations and posters, using a collection of pre-designed templates and elements.
Best practices for digital design
Creating effective designs for the web requires a understanding of both design, your brand and potential users. Let's explore some of the most important best practices to help you create engaging, effective designs that resonate with your audience.
Practice user-centered design
Design should always be focused on the user and their needs. Digital designers should conduct user research and usability testing to gain insights into how users interact with their products and use this information to inform their design decisions.
Consistency and continuity
Designers rarely create a product for just one type of device. That's why digital designers should ensure that their designs are consistent and accessible across different platforms and devices. This practice will ensure that elements such as typography, color and imagery are used consistently throughout a product.
Simple, clean designs are more likely to be effective and user-friendly than designs with a lot of unnecessary details. Functional minimalism is a technique that helps digital designers prioritize visual elements and minimize clutter and distractions to the user.
Visual hierarchy is a term used to describe how content sections are structured on a page. A good visual hierarchy makes it easy for users to scan content and find what they want. A few elements contribute to good visual hierarchy—white space, typography, and color. White space is used to separate individual sections from each other, while typography and color can guide the user through the page and focus their attention on particular elements.
Mobile-first design approach
With the majority of internet traffic (up to 60%) now coming from mobile devices, it's vital to prioritize mobile design. Mobile-first design is an approach used to optimize the design for small screens first, and then move toward larger screens. Keep in mind that within this process, image optimization can be a bit tricky, and you may have to manually resize the image to a particular medium or use special image resizer tools.
You should always ensure that designs are accessible to various groups of users, including people with disabilities, such as those who are visually impaired, deaf, or have motor impairments. To do this, follow WCAG guidelines when creating a product. This includes, but is not limited to, using clear and concise text, providing alt text for images, and designing interfaces that are easy to navigate using a keyboard.\
Tip: If you’re designing a website on Wix, use the Accessibility Wizard to scan your site and pinpoint accessibility issues.
Continual testing and improvement
Digital design is an iterative process. It's nearly impossible to design a perfect product from the first attempt. That's why digital designers should continually test and refine their designs based on the feedback they receive from customers and analytics.
By Nick Babich
Product Designer & Writer