Nowadays, most people spend a good portion of their time online. Be it in front of our computers or on our phones, our eyes are focused on screens more than ever before. Most of the imagery we see online is the work of digital designers — people who specialize in creating designs for websites and apps, banners, ads, infographics, and more. There are different categories of digital designers — UX specialists, web designers, graphic designers — but all of them are experts in this one specific field of work.
In this article, we will talk about what is digital design and how it influences everything we see online. We will also familiarize you with the basic digital design principles you need to know. If you want to start a career as a digital designer, or you are simply looking for more information on the topic, read on.
What Is Digital Design?
To put it simply, digital design can be summarized as visuals created for viewing on a screen. While it is similar to traditional print design, there are many important differences to take into account. Print design usually refers to magazines, books, brochures, and business cards. With digital design, however, you need to keep interactivity and user experience in mind.
Another important difference between print and digital design is the role of analytics and metrics. Accurately assessing the effectiveness of the former is next to impossible to achieve. However, with digital design, you have access to useful information regarding the way users see and interact with your design. Based on such data, digital designs can be improved to perform better and achieve their intended goals with greater success.
The Core Principles of Digital Design
When it comes to design, the only limit is your own imagination and creativity. However, we talked about analytics and performance, both of which are key in digital design. There are certain basic rules and concepts that apply across all digital design projects. No matter if you are designing a website, a logo, or a banner ad — keeping those principles in mind will ensure that your design is memorable and effective.
In the following paragraphs, we will explore the main digital design basics that you need to keep in mind. If you are an aspiring designer, you need to memorize them by heart. Those are the foundation of every successful design you have seen online.
1. Lines and Shapes
The basics of digital design work like building blocks. The first and most essential block is, of course, lines. Yes, they are quite simple, but the foundation of pretty much every design is based on them. Depending on how the lines are drawn, a design can look and feel completely different. For example, a design that uses sharp lines will feel quite different from one that relies on rounded edges.
Shapes are the logical result of lines and are also essential to how a design is perceived. Some designers prefer a minimalistic, clean approach, while others go for complex shapes. Effective use of lines and shapes is the cornerstone of successful branding, logo creation, and digital design overall.
Another key building block of digital design is space — the parts of the design that are left blank (or simply have background color). Good designers know that space is essential to making the important elements stand out. Also, smart use of space will make your design feel open and easy to perceive by the viewer. The current trends focus on minimalistic designs with plenty of blank space.
Of course, colors are one of the most effective tools a designer can use. The possibilities here are virtually endless, depending on the type of project we are talking about. Standard web design, for instance, relies on primary, secondary, and contrast colors for consistency and effective branding. However, you might blend in as many colors as you want and go with a really complex execution. It all depends on the goal you are trying to achieve.
The way you present and incorporate wording in a design is crucial to many aspects of a project. On one hand, the words transfer the message you want to get across. On the other, well-presented wording can take the overall design to a whole different level. While the words themselves are important, so is the font you use for them.
Typography is the area of design that covers the selection of fonts and their layout. Size, thickness, color, and shape significantly influence the way your design looks and feels. Choosing a font that plays well with the rest of the design works to make your messaging all the more impactful.
Balance refers to the specific way in which lines, shapes, and colors are grouped and how they are spread throughout the overall design. Creating separate elements and combining them efficiently is one of the hardest and most important aspects of digital design. Ideally, you will have the balance for your design figured out even before you start working on the lines, shapes, and colors. This way, you will make sure the end result is exactly how you have envisioned it.
Of course, some elements of a design are more important than others. Digital design is all about directing the attention of a viewer to a certain element — this is where hierarchy comes in. It helps you define the focal points of your design and make them stand out naturally among the rest. While making your essential elements bigger can be effective, you can achieve the same with shaping, contrasting colors, and placement.
Digital design is now more important and relevant than it ever has been. While it is a complex area that allows a lot of creativity and innovation, the basic principles we outlined above always apply. Both newcomers to digital design and veterans need to understand those core ideas and implement them in their everyday work.
We hope that our short guide to digital design and its rules was useful to you. Feel free to dig more on the subject and explore each of the core principles in depth for more information on the topic.