The Advantages and Challenges of Digital Design

Note: The examples provided come from our interview with Anthony Carrozzo, Director of UX and Design at Newsday Media.

A lot of designers make the transition from print design to digital design during their careers. And though print still has its place, it's impossible to ignore the relevance of digital design. Whether you're trying to expand your clientele or completely pivot your design focus, digital concentrations like UX/UI, mobile apps and responsive web design are now standards in the design landscape. 

There are apparent reasons why digital design has taken over, but with its many advantages also come new challenges that designers face. If you're a print designer considering the transition (or you want to understand digital designers a little better), keep reading! We sat down with Anthony Carrozo, Director of UX and Design at Newsday Media Group, to hear his thoughts on the balance between print and digital design. This article will look at the advantages of digital design, new skills designers can benefit from, and the challenges designers need to adapt to.

Digital Design Creates More Efficiency

Every time a new technology emerges, our daily cultural and social structures shift. The advent of smartphones and tablets, for example, changed how we consume content. The print mediums we once relied on to stay informed or market consumers can now be accessed on the go with a single touch. As end users and consumers, this speed and ease have made our lives all the easier.

But these efficiencies also benefit creators and designers. Here's how:

Digital Design Is Easier To Update

Print design is a linear process. You create your designs, ship them to a printer for production, and then have your final product! (Yes, we know we're simplifying things 😬). In print, finished design files are essentially the final product.

Digital design is more forgiving and allows you to continue making changes even after a final design has been shipped (for better or worse). It's much simpler to update and republish a file than to reproduce something already printed. Take, for example, a restaurant that changes its menu seasonally or even daily. Printing menus regularly can be time-consuming and costly compared to a digital menu or website that can be updated in seconds at no cost.  

Color Matching Is Easier With Digital Design

CMYK is the color mode you'll use when creating anything that has to be printed. For digital, that changes to an RGB color mode. Computer monitors emit RGB light, offering a broader color spectrum than printing and displaying a million more colors than possible with printing. 

Digital design not only allows for more vibrant designs but also makes color matching easier to manage, even with an increased spectrum of colors. Using hex codes, you can feel confident that your original design is consistent across platforms. With print design, you rely on Pantones to get consistency in color. You also must ensure that the printer you use is calibrated perfectly to ensure color consistency. This, alongside creating proofs, adds time and money to any design project compared to doing it digitally.

Digital Media Promotes More Collaboration Between Design and Development Teams

Designers and developers naturally collaborate more in the digital media landscape. Since both roles contribute to the overall user experience of an app or website, they need to work effectively together. A designer can create an amazing, compelling design. But if they fail to communicate with development properly, the end product will suffer. 

Digital design opens up doorways within an organization and invites more active collaboration across teams. And when teams can communicate clearly and work alongside each other instead of in silos, you'll have better outcomes and greater satisfaction among team members. (Interested in ways to optimize cross-team collaboration? We wrote about that here.)

This bridge between design and development leads us to an age-old question, "should designers know how to code?" 

Why Designers Benefit From Learning How To Code 

Though designers don't need to be proficient at coding, it's valuable for them to have basic knowledge of the core principles. Knowing coding terminology and fundamentals allows designers to understand the product development process better. It increases their ability to communicate with development teams effectively and helps them empathize with the challenges faced by developers. Additionally, it allows them to better interface with other stakeholders on a project and become a resource for bridging gaps in communication between teams.

Knowing coding terminology and fundamentals allows designers to understand the product development process better. It increases their ability to communicate with development teams effectively and helps them empathize with the challenges faced by developers.

Finding a Balance Between Design and Development

Though it's advantageous for designers to know how to code, it's important not to get overly distracted with development-type thinking during the design process. Thinking ahead about how a design will work from a development perspective is helpful but can also inhibit creativity. Sometimes when designers focus too much on development, it's easy for them to prioritize feasibility over innovative creativity. That's why designers should concentrate on their core skills and let developers handle the complex details of implementing their designs.

How Designers Can Learn How To Code

As noted above, better communication with other teams and an enhanced understanding of the development process are achieved when designers know how to code. But how should designers gain these skills and knowledge? 

Luckily, many resources are available for designers looking to level up their game with coding skills.

Many designers choose to self-educate through videos on YouTube or other resources. Others may want to participate in a coding boot camp, which can quickly help you develop essential coding skills. Designers can also find an in-house mentor that might be willing to share helpful insight and knowledge about the world of development. 

Challenges Digital Designers Face

Though digital design is more advantageous overall than print, designers still face challenges. And as the field continues to grow, there will be new obstacles that designers will have to adapt to. Some of these include:

Having To Test Design Theories 

A challenge and opportunity for digital designers is being able to back up their ideas with actual data. In the not-so-distant past, design was based much more on "feel" and intuition versus data. However, with the arrival of A/B testing and other user experience tracking tools, designers now need to provide empirical evidence to support the effectiveness of their designs. Instead of using what "looks" best, designers need to be willing to publish what actually "works" best according to their experiments. Though this ensures that designs are well received by your audience, it does add an extra step to a designer's workflow. 

Staying Up-to-Date on New Technology and Trends 

Design and development are both fast-moving industries. Visual trends are constantly changing, and so is the technology supporting these trends. For designs and digital platforms to stay effective and enticing to users, designers and developers need to understand how the landscape is evolving. In many cases, this requires additional research outside of your day-to-day workflow. 

One way to stay up-to-date and even gain inspiration for your own creations is to analyze the work of other cutting-edge and dynamic digital platforms. Dissect what these designers and coders are doing and try to reverse engineer the things you find helpful. Not only will this level up your skills and knowledge, but it will bring great insight regarding UX in general.

Digital Design Is Here To Stay

It's safe to say that digital design has some key advantages over print. It is more efficient, promotes more cross-team collaboration, and aligns with our current social structures. Designers in the digital age also have the opportunity to learn new skills, such as coding, which makes them more valuable to their team and boosts their overall effectiveness in the industry. Though there are new challenges digital designers face, these challenges create more innovation in the design field.

If you'd like to learn more or have questions, contact us at Majestyk today!

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