What Is Digital Design? Types, Careers, and How to Get Started

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Ready to add digital design to your workflow? Explore below the different types of digital design, areas of specialization, and how to get started.

[Featured image] A group of digital designers reviews printouts of color schemes on a large table for mobile and tablet designs.

What is digital design?

Digital design refers to a type of visual communication that presents information to users on an electronic device, such as a computer, tablet, or mobile phone. As you’ll explore throughout this article, digital design can include web pages, mobile app interfaces, graphics for social media, video game animations, 3D models, and more. 

Digital design accounts for how users interact with the end product, including optimizing how a design appears on and adapts to screens of different sizes, its overall aesthetic appeal, and how buttons, text, images, and other digital elements are positioned. 

Statista predicts that the number of digital interface and web designers will increase from 200,000 in 2022 to over 229,000 by 2032 [1]. This kind of job growth could signal a demand for digital designers and point to an increasing need for effective user interfaces on any device or program.  

Digital design vs. graphic design 

While researching this topic, you may be wondering how graphic design relates to digital design. There is some overlap between these fields, as digital designers and graphic designers both use software to communicate ideas visually. You can think of digital design as a broader field, encompassing graphic design, UX/UI design, 3D design, and more.  

Explore additional distinctions below. 

Digital designGraphic design
Digital designs can be static, interactive, or animatedGraphic designs are static images, such as logos, social media graphics, or ebooks.
Users interact with end products on electronic devices.Graphic designs can translate to print media in physical form, such as a brochure, billboard, or poster, that users encounter without an electronic device.
Designed to be used, not just seenDesigned to be seen
With digital design, you can likely understand a design’s performance, including views and button clicks, using data analytics.Some graphic designs, especially in physical print form, cannot be measured in terms of performance or user interaction.

Digital developers often work with digital designers to turn visual mockups into functional websites, apps, or other interactive material, using code.  

Placeholder

Types of digital design 

Digital design encompasses many types of user interfaces and purposes and can figure into a variety of personal or professional goals. For example, you may want to start a digital design career, hire a digital designer for a project, or learn specific digital design skills to enhance your business. Explore digital design possibilities below. 

Digital UX/UI design

Digital user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design both involve optimizing human-computer interactions so that users can easily find information, take action, and engage meaningfully with a brand on any device. Digital designers who focus on UX and UI might create websites, landing pages, digital products, and apps. Design considerations might include the layout of on-screen elements, including text, buttons, colors, fonts, images, graphics, and more. 

Placeholder

specialization

UI / UX Design

Design High-Impact User Experiences. Research, design, and prototype effective, visually-driven websites and apps.

4.8

(6,227 ratings)

144,114 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 4 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Website Wireframe, strategy, User Interface Design (UI Design), User Experience (UX), User Research, Graphic Design, Adobe XD, Adobe Illustrator, InVision, Marvel, Adobe Indesign, Treejack, Sketch, HTML/CSS, Balsamiq

Digital design for marketing 

Digital design for marketing involves the design of digital assets to increase brand awareness, communicate messages to a target audience, capture a brand’s look and feel, and promote products. Some of the assets that a digital designer might create include infographics, email templates, banner ads and display ads, social media pages, social media graphics, and animated GIFs. 

Digital design for desktop publishing

Digital publishing design refers to designing layouts for digital documents composed mostly of text. Some of the projects that a designer might complete include ebooks, online newsletters, magazines, or pamphlets. Designers might optimize the visual layout of elements and the overall aesthetics so the user can interact meaningfully with the material. 

3D design 

3D design involves the use of 3D modeling software to create a three-dimensional representation of a physical object or space. The object can then be printed or manufactured in physical form or appear on screen in 3D. 3D design can encompass fields such as architecture, fashion, product design, augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR), event design, and animation for film and gaming. Designers can create 3D models of buildings, interior spaces, characters, garments, physical products, and more.    

3D design can play an important role in the evolution and mainstream adoption of the Metaverse, as immersive virtual experiences transform work environments, gaming, and more. 

Placeholder

Placeholder

course

What is the Metaverse?

The metaverse isn’t just for gamers or developers, it will be for everyone. In this free course from the experts at Meta, you’ll learn what the metaverse ...

4.6

(440 ratings)

39,928 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 1 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

NFTs, Content Creation, Game Engines, Extended Reality, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency

Read more: What Is 3D Design? And How to Get Started 

4 components of effective digital design 

The priority for every digital designer is to create with the user’s needs, interests, and experience in mind. Let’s explore the qualities that make a digital design effective:  

  • Accessible: Users can easily understand and interact with digital design elements. 

  • Engaging: A design reflects the brand it represents, captures an audience’s attention, and provides an aesthetically pleasing experience.  

  • Interactive: A design enables and encourages interaction, including clicking, scrolling, and inputting information.  

  • Adaptable: A design can adjust to different screen sizes. 

How to get started in digital design 

With all the possibilities in digital design, it’s important to weigh your options carefully. Follow the steps below to begin the process. 

1. Identify your digital design goals. 

Gain clarity on what you want to accomplish in digital design and the motivations behind your goals. That way, you can choose the path that best aligns with these goals. Here are examples: 

  • Pursue a career in digital design, either taking on freelance and contract work or finding a job as a company’s in-house designer. 

  • Hire a designer to create digital assets for your business.

  • Learn digital design skills to complete personal or professional projects. 

2. Explore types of digital design and examples of projects. 

Your next step is to narrow your focus to a particular area of digital design and raise your awareness of the different types of projects you can complete. Good places to get inspiration include: 

  • Job listings on Glassdoor, Indeed, and other career sites, where you can discover what skills and experience employers want a digital designer to have.

 

  • Profiles of freelance digital designers on Fiverr, Upwork, and other talent sites, where you can discover projects freelancers take on. 

3. Take a digital design course. 

A digital design course can be a great way to build foundational skills, fine-tune your goals, and discover even more of what’s possible for your future in digital design. Look for courses that introduce you to different software, techniques, and projects that you can complete. 

Placeholder

course

Fundamentals of Graphic Design

Graphic Design is all around us! Words and pictures—the building blocks of graphic design—are the elements that carry the majority of the content in both ...

4.8

(15,987 ratings)

661,126 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 1 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Creativity, Graphics, Design Theory, Color Theory

4. Use different digital design tools. 

Along with taking a digital design course, be sure to get a feel for the different tools and software programs that digital designers use in different fields to bring ideas to life. Here are some popular software programs used in different areas of digital design: 

Sign up for free trials of software you’re interested in learning more about and begin completing projects. 

5. Create and launch your digital design plan. 

Once you know your goals, areas of focus, the kinds of projects you want to complete, the skills you need, and the tools available to you, it’s time to take action. Action steps might include: 

  • Writing a job description for the kind of digital designer you want to hire.

  • Taking additional courses in a focus area to qualify for jobs you want to apply for.

Placeholder

specialization

Responsive Website Development and Design

Create an interactive user experience.. Learn the fundamentals of full stack web development in five comprehensive courses.

4.6

(3,777 ratings)

64,675 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 7 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

HTML/CSS, Mongodb, Meteor, APIs, JavaScript, Jquery, HTML, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), Responsive Web Design, Routing, Web Development

  • Applying for jobs in digital design. 

  • Creating your first digital assets to enhance your own business. 

Learn digital design with Coursera

Explore Coursera’s offerings in different areas of digital design to gain skills like building interactive web pages, navigating the metaverse, and delighting users with engaging digital experiences.   

Placeholder

specialization

UI / UX Design

Design High-Impact User Experiences. Research, design, and prototype effective, visually-driven websites and apps.

4.8

(6,227 ratings)

144,114 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 4 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Website Wireframe, strategy, User Interface Design (UI Design), User Experience (UX), User Research, Graphic Design, Adobe XD, Adobe Illustrator, InVision, Marvel, Adobe Indesign, Treejack, Sketch, HTML/CSS, Balsamiq

Placeholder

specialization

Virtual Reality

Start your journey in Virtual Reality. Develop your knowledge and create your own VR application.

4.7

(963 ratings)

33,764 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 6 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Interaction Design, 3d computer graphics, Virtual World, Virtual Reality

Placeholder

professional certificate

Meta Front-End Developer

Launch your career as a front-end developer. Build job-ready skills for an in-demand career and earn a credential from Meta. No degree or prior experience required to get started.

4.7

(5,476 ratings)

91,617 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 7 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), HTML, UI/UX design, React, JavaScript, Web Development Tools, User Interface, Front-End Web Development, HTML and CSS, Responsive Web Design, Test-Driven Development, Object-Oriented Programming (OOP), Linux, Web Development, Bash (Unix Shell), Github, Version Control, Debugging, React (Web Framework), Web Application, Application development, Unit Testing, Web Design, User Experience (UX), Accessibility, Pseudocode, Algorithms, Communication, Data Structure, Computer Science

Article sources

  1. Statista. “Total number of web developer and digital interface designer jobs in the United States in 2022 and 2023, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1009739/united-states-web-developers-digital-interface-designer-employment/.” Accessed December 1, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

Big savings for your big goals! Save $200 on Coursera Plus.

  • For a limited time, save like never before on a new Coursera Plus annual subscription (original price: $399 | after discount: $199 for one year).
  • Get unlimited access to 7,000+ courses from world-class universities and companies—for less than $20/month!
  • Gain the skills you need to succeed, anytime you need them—whether you’re starting your first job, switching to a new career, or advancing in your current role.