As with any branch of graphic design, digital design is fundamentally about communication. Aside from specific cases, it is generally accepted that a strong communication strategy will at least consider a balance of print, digital and experiential executions to communicate a message. One of the most obvious differences between print and digital design is how a user interacts with the content. Unlike some of the fixed formats associated with traditional print, digital designers are not limited by the size of the document. Various techniques can be employed to use a screen as a viewing portal. Instead of looking ‘at’ something, you are essentially looking ‘into’ a screen, where content can move, speak and respond to your interactions. While print benefits from tactility, digital benefits from movement and interaction.
Digital design is an increasingly important part of how businesses, brands and individuals interact with one another. The first screens originated in the 80s and since then there has been a huge expansion of screen-supported devices. As a result, the need for ‘digital design’ solutions has also increased. The basic design functionality of the first computers consisted of basic input and output, however, this has evolved to a point where almost all of the senses are accounted for. Digital design can be a truly immersive experience for your brand, going beyond the static text and images associated with print design. It is this level of expressive interaction that makes digital design so valuable.
The power of iteration
One of the major advantages of digital design is the ability to make changes to a piece of design or refine content over a period of time. While print and experiential design are largely ‘fixed’ with a greater degree of permanence, digital elements can quickly and easily be swapped out or replaced with something new entirely. This gives huge flexibility for brands that are looking to communicate a message over time.
The design process
The design process for digital applications is very similar to print design. The base motivations are the same and they use many of the same visual and verbal principles to express an idea. There are many key differences, however. Motion, touch, interaction, sound and input are all principles that play into the creation of digital elements. When designing something that will be displayed on different devices, such as websites, apps or presentations, it is essential to consider how that design will work when the format or resolution of the screen changes. For example, if you design an app that only works on a mobile phone, will it be rendered useless when it is used on a tablet or desktop computer? It is also important to accept that certain elements such as typefaces, colours and images may render differently on certain screen types. Technology is changing all the time and like hardware, software can also quickly become redundant. For example, the vast majority of modern websites are no longer formatted to work on older browsers such as Internet Explorer as this is considered old technology, even by Microsoft.
The development process is a key part of digital design. It is essentially the process of bringing an idea into the digital world than ensuring it works in the way you intend across a vast array of devices and platforms. The design and development processes work hand in hand with each other as this is where technology meets creativity. Many designs fall as they simply cannot be reproduced digitally. Conversely, overly technical digital design often lacks any personality or brand character. It is this balance that defines the success of a project. The importance of an efficiently coded website cannot be understated. Page speed, as defined by Google Lighthouse, is made up of several key factors that are used to grade both websites and microsites. These metrics change regularly, however, the premise is the same. A properly coded page will load quickly, cause no irritating changes to the layout and deliver a meaningful experience to users.
Testing is an essential part of the development process of digital designs that will be displayed on various devices. Owing to the huge number of available devices, operating systems and software available it is almost impossible to predict exactly how digital content will display on every device. It is always recommended that a brand thoroughly tests new pieces of design to identify and fix any issues before they are made public.
As with testing, ongoing maintenance is highly recommended for any type of design that is available to the public. Due to the fast-moving nature of technology, changes that are brought in are often out-with the control of the brand or agency, therefore an appropriate maintenance schedule should be agreed upfront to avoid any issues.
If your business would benefit from a fresh approach to digital design, please get in touch and we will be happy to advise on the best route forward. We recommend that a strong brand identity is defined to ensure all online materials are unique, consistent and effective.