Confused about what a digital designer is? Are they graphic designers, illustrators, or art directors? We drop the knowledge to keep you informed on what constitutes a digital designer in today’s day and age.

As soon as we identify what digital designers are, we will show you a plethora of things they do. Perhaps you will want to become one after reading this article and start a freelance career or make and sell NFTs!

The cool thing is we will show you what’s up with digital designers.

Digital Design

Nowadays, a lot of what we perceive as “the world” is being seen through a screen.

We wake up and turn off an alarm in a mobile app, navigate through our social media, come across a few advertisements in the meantime, open our emails, interact with our coworkers or classmates through our computers and phones, and after a long day of technological activity, sometimes we get tired and decide to watch a movie or a tv show or to play some video game (so yeah, more technology)… well basically all of that involves some kind of digital design.

There are times in which the work of a digital designer doesn’t even end in a digital project and ends up being printed, too, so you might not be familiar with the term “digital designer.” Still, you certainly are familiar with digital design. 

It isn’t easy to draw the line that separates a graphic designer from a digital one.

Digital Designers

In theory, graphic designers will care about ink and paper (like glossy or matte) while digital designers will work with pixels and vectors… but honestly, a designer won’t survive for long in the mean job market without having skills from both the graphic and the digital spheres of design.

A digital designer still needs to know how to make a color palette suitable for printing; a graphic designer still needs to make sure the design will work digitally.

Both also generally have similar career paths: first going to art school or university, then getting some freelance gigs or luckily an internship, eventually working with an agency or opening their own studios, etc. 

Nonetheless, a few differences determine where you stand as a designer, what you specialize in, so to speak. If the products you design are primarily static, printed compositions that will reach their target audience in the analogical world, then you’re closer to a graphic designer.

But if your designs are usually meant to be found on the internet, or if you need to consider the possibility of the receiver interacting with them through clicks, then you’re most likely a digital designer.

Computer software such as Photoshop, Procreate, InDesign, or Illustrator are today the tools of both graphic and digital designers.

Still, the latter shines the most when motion graphics, animation, and video editing are involved, using software such as After Effects or Premiere Pro (if you don’t believe me, look at the Instagram account of the famous David Schwen / @dschwen). 

David Schwen
Samples of design by David Schwen

A digital designer may not usually create the whole branding for a product, but it will certainly appear on the job description to create on-brand solutions for digital use.

The employer will develop a concept that could be adapted to a template, social media, product graphics, or website. The digital designer will translate that concept into an attractive and often interactive visual composition for a specific target user.

The success of the translation from concept to design will rely on the designer’s skills regarding computer applications, software, client-side development, and data conversion and the skills regarding color theory, typography, and creativity (it’s still visual communication, after all!).

The designs of a digital designer are, of course, meant to be encountered on digital devices; this means that the designer needs to, at the very least, be familiar with HTML and CSS codes.

A graphic designer will probably get away with not being able to read, understand or edit these languages (they are important techniques involved in the making of web pages, while graphic designers worry themselves more with printed pages…) a digital designer, on the other hand, needs to switch styles in CSS in their sleep, and be able to recognize the different types in HTML with no problem whatsoever.

Each digital design appears in a different shape, in a different digital device, and serves a different purpose.

Therefore a digital designer needs to be ready to face all this variety of options (even though sometimes a job position will make you focus more on one specific design type, being prepared for everything is always a good idea). 

The basis of digital design is the same as in graphic design (psychology, aesthetics, composition).

Still, the specifics are related to users interacting with digital interfaces, which means that a digital designer will need to consider the user experience: the possibilities of interaction with the designed product, the different screen formats in which this design will be displayed,  etc.

What was once useful for a static graphic design may not be as effective for digital communication.

Even aspects of design as old as lettering can be reinterpreted for a better appreciation in digital form (that’s the case with amazing designers and letterers such as Lauren Hom /@homsweethom and David Milan /@mdemilan).

The User Experience

A successful digital design will always provide a proper user experience.

When designing for multimedia use, the result will always have to be aligned with both the product’s brand and the employer’s technical standards.

A designer should always create digital solutions, never digital problems. 

Poster Wall

Digital Movie Posters and Design

With the advent of technology and streaming, movie poster design is prominent in both the print and digital worlds. To be a successful movie poster designer, you will need to be well prepared for both applications.

Today though, tons of movies are premiering online on the platforms of a wide variety of streaming services.

Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, and Acorn TV (to only name a few) are constantly advertising their new content on the internet. At the same time, they also need to organize said content in the interfaces of their apps and websites.

What does that mean for digital designers? It means that digital movie posters and design are more necessary now than ever before. 

Digital Posters and Streaming Artwork

Digital posters are obviously not printed but displayed on screens instead. This has pros and cons in comparison to traditional movie posters.

One advantage is that there’s no limitation for movement. The designer can develop ideas that include transitions, zoom in and out, make characters move while the text remains still, divide the information into multiple panels, etc.

The cool thing is that movie poster agencies have departments specializing in animation and 3D. As a digital designer, you are responsible for concept and static imagery. Once your idea and imagery are approved, the other department brings them to life.

One disadvantage is that, while at the cinema you would have the time and the mood to stand in front of a movie poster and observe it calmly and with lots of attention, on the internet, you are way more likely to pass over a movie ad, while scrolling down on social media.

For the designer, this means that digital movie posters should -in many cases- be simplified to be more easily readable, somehow downgrading the original design. 

Movie Studio

Digital & Graphic Design in Movies

There’s one more thing: digital designers’ job doesn’t end in digital movie posters when it comes to the film industry. It is common for them to also work on the movie itself in the art department.

How often do you see logos, illustrations, symbols, or texts relevant to the movie’s plot? Well, behind the scenes, someone needs to help design those as well (that is the job of the likes of Martin T. Charles).

Whenever there’s technology working side by side with visual communication, there’s room for digital design. 

And with movies comes plenty of opportunities for a fulfilling and exciting career in design. This brings us to learning the art of movie poster design.

Learn to Design Movie Posters!

At Poster Grind, we are developing an online course dedicated to teaching movie poster design and how to get a job at a movie poster design agency.

Our teachers are actual art directors and designers that work in the business, so you will be sure to learn the necessities or what’s required for a career in this industry.

If you are interested, we suggest you sign up for our Newsletter to be notified as soon as our classes are available. In the meantime, you will also want to subscribe to our YouTube channel and take our free courses there.