Are you the next big-time digital designer that’s ready to take the art world by storm? If that’s your dream, then you will have to know and learn the following skillsets.
We drop the absolute must-knows!
If you’re planning on working as a digital designer full time, it is, of course, essential to think about design in the first place: developing a style of your own, recognizing the strategies that other designers use to make their work look neat, and coherent, being imaginative when coming up with and when executing cool concepts, etc.
All of this is important, yes, but it is not enough to become a professional. The job market is tough, man, and we have to keep up with it; and we are even talking about the emerging NFT market too.
So here are three sets of skills that will help you become the ultimate digital designer.
1. Creative Skills
This is, after all, a career path built on both art and communication. Not all digital designers do the same job; they all specialize in something like movie poster design. Still, in any branch of digital design, you will profit from improving the following skills:
This is a must. Whether you focus on drawing, painting, or animation, it is always mandatory to be able to present your ideas in a visual form before you start developing them.
Sketching is not only a way of organizing your thoughts but also a priceless tool to help clients and coworkers understand your vision.
You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and that is so much more real in an industry that’s always running against the clock to reach deadlines.
Once you’ve learned how to sketch your ideas on paper, the next logical step on the road to becoming a digital designer is to start sketching digitally too.
Your ability to sketch will only take you so far; you also need good, original concepts to develop. Some people are incredibly creative and come up with ten brilliant ideas per hour. Some struggle just coming up with one. If you’re among the second group, do not despair.
Creativity can be trained just like any other skill. You just have to observe the world around you curiously and attentively.
What are other designers doing? What has the history of design already done? How do the people around you express their feelings? How do animals and vehicles move? How do art directors in films create different moods for different scenes?
Analyzing all that will help you understand human anatomy, movement, and emotions better, and once you understand them, it will be easier to represent them.
The base of both art and design. The final message delivered by your work and the emotions it generates on the audience is determined greatly by how the elements are organized in the available space of the design work.
The composition determines the readability of the concept.
There’re many schools of thought and simple laws from which you can learn to compose better, Gestalt, the rule of thirds, the golden ratio, using geometrical shapes as a base, guiding the viewer’s eyes using lines, calling the attention to one color accent, etc.
These tricks aren’t unbreakable rules but will help you develop a feeling when a composition works and when it doesn’t. They will also help you localize issues and solve them faster.
This is everything for art and design.
Color is a strong tool for composition; it is the one thing that will help you give volume to your figures; it creates moods, it can lead to naturalism or to fantasy. Color is shading and lighting, which are two of the things that will make illustrations and animations look more realistic and more relatable.
Knowing how to use color properly also means knowing when you’re using too much; sometimes, a limited palette is more than enough. In fact, most of the time, it is actually like that.
If you can tell saturation from hue and value when working with color, it will be easier for you to recognize and fix color-related problems.
Now, this one obviously depends on the area of work you specialize in. Some designers don’t even have to create their own characters; they just edit pictures or create motion graphics, do editorial design, or organize poster compositions using existing characters.
But when you design logos, animations, concept art, and advertisements, character design is essential. All characters come to life first as a sketch, a rough basic concept that evolves into a finished form.
Character design involves not only clothes but also gestures, voices, positions, and expressions. If you refine your character design, your audience will relate easier to your characters.
2. Technical skills
While creative skills will help you come up with killer ideas and to think about how to represent them, technical skills will help you execute them in digital formats:
A digital designer is not and doesn’t need to be a programmer, but it cannot hurt to know some of the basics behind how websites and apps are made.
As a digital designer, the internet and electronic devices are your canvas. The better you understand them, the easier it will be to create concepts that can work fine in them. It will also be more natural to you to use digital tools, which you will use daily.
Again, a designer is no publicist, but they do share some common goals with a publicist. Digital design also tries to reach a large audience to sell a product.
If you have a general knowledge of how the film and video game industries work, if you know television and magazines, and most importantly, if you study their target audiences, then you will design more effective works for any of them. You can be a god with the tablet and an amazing draftsman.
However, you still won’t be able to design a powerful movie poster if you don’t know (or don’t keep in mind) that the target audience will only have some seconds of their day to see said poster, understand it, and either love it or hate it.
Each target audience has a different behavior, and it’s always good to consider that.
The main difference between a digital artist and a digital designer is that the latter uses creative skills to communicate a message.
While a digital artist can go a whole life of working without caring a bit for typography (because illustrations are enough), a designer needs to consider typography management as an essential skill.
You can create a perfect background illustration and ruin it by using a bad type. Selecting the right type for a project and knowing how to use it, being good at typesetting, distinguishing the personalities of different fonts, knowing the basics of Illustrator and InDesign, all of that will be a particular plus when aiming at new projects as a digital designer.
Creating and editing static images is kind of a given of the designer profession.
You simply cannot be a decent digital designer if you cannot modify a picture in Photoshop or manipulate a vector-based illustration.
And maybe not that many years ago; that would have been more than enough. But nowadays, editing a video and animating at least some elements of it (the words, the characters, the background, the transitions) will be anything from a plus to a must in any branch of digital design.
For some digital design areas, even 2D animation won’t be enough, and you’ll also need to know how to model, light up, and animate shapes in 3D.
Ever since the first modern special effects and Pixar movies started coming up, our eyes have been adopting more and more to CGI, and 2D animation is simply not that common anymore because it doesn’t sell as much anymore.
When a client asks for an animation that involves pictures and words and actually moving and talking characters, they likely expect the results to have three dimensions.
3. Work skills
Even if you have the creative and technical skills covered, you still need to develop a work ethic. Regardless of whether you want to be a freelancer or to work at a company, it would be best if you still were responsible and proactive, and these are some of the skills that will help you in any possible area of digital design:
It is not only one of the pillars of digital design but also a great skill to have when dealing with day-to-day job relations. In any digital design branch, you will have to communicate with the client, and maybe with a superior or even with subordinates.
In any case, it will be best to know how to explain your ideas clearly, how to make a convincing case for a concept, how to listen to others and incorporate their ideas into your speech.
When it comes to working in a team, having communication skills is key to keeping everything running smoothly.
Collaborative work in a studio will always be more efficient if the different members are all on the same page about each project’s goals and progress.
Every time you get a new project to work on, you will face new challenges.
Sometimes these challenges will appear in the form of a design work that is not looking the way you would like it to; sometimes it will be a software that doesn’t respond to your commands the way you expect it to, sometimes a client that doesn’t understand your vision, or even a printer messing up your perfect editorial design.
Every time one of these unwanted and annoying situations appears, how you approach and solve the problem will be determined by how innovative and how patient and conciliatory you are.
Work on your empathy when dealing with people and develop your research skills when dealing with machines.
An answer to the issue is always there for the taking if you are innovative enough and willing to think outside the box.
Having original ideas and outstanding artistic skills is only half of the job; you also need to learn to manage your time and to be honest with both yourself and your client/boss.
If you accept a job that would typically take you a week and promise to do it in two days, you will either fail at reaching the deadline, deliver poor results or leave the client satisfied at the cost of personal burnout.
None of those options are professional or healthy. Remember that unexpected issues can appear and delay the process, so having an accurate idea of how much time each task takes you is vital.
Keeping An Open Mind
The digital aspects of our world are in constant evolution, permanently changing. That means that digital jobs also vary from time to time.
A digital designer doesn’t do today the exact same job as ten years ago. The software has changed, the hardware has changed, the public has changed.
Presumably, ten years from now, digital design will be a different work field too. So the only possible defense to that neverending sea of change is adaptable.
If you are willing to travel, learn how to use new tools, integrate yourself into new teams of workers, and accept new challenging projects, you will enjoy the digital job market rather than stress because of it.
Whether you’re dealing with a client, sharing your progress with a fellow designer, or trying to contribute to the art director’s vision, it is always important to be able to understand and incorporate the feedback you’re receiving. Remember that everyone working on a project has the same goal of achieving the best results possible.
The visions about how to achieve that may vary or even clash sometimes, but as long as you’re flexible and allow your work to change, you’ll always be able to find some satisfactory compromise.
Ultimately, every piece of digital design that you create has a big part of your vision and mirrors your skills, so trust yourself and don’t drive yourself crazy.
Not every final product needs to be a dreamed masterpiece; some just have to be done in time and be suitable for the client’s needs.
Digital Design and Movie Posters
If you haven’t guessed by now, you can see our focus on this website is geared toward the world of movie poster design and fan art. In fact, we are coming up with an online course that will teach the ins and outs of both.
The classes are not yet ready, but we do suggest you sign up for our newsletter so that you will be notified as soon as they are released.
Until then, you can check out our free art and design tutorials on our YouTube channel.