Becoming a Digital Designer: What You Need To Know

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

For creative, life-long learners who are interested in technology and design, a career in digital design can be rewarding and lucrative. Let's take a look at the skills and steps needed to get a job as a digital designer.

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Digital designers combine technology and imagination to create media meant to be viewed on a screen or digital interface. This could include web design, animation, interactive elements, or 2D or 3D models. Several different roles fall under the umbrella of digital design, including:

  • Web designer

  • App designer

  • User experience (UX) or user interface (UI) designer

  • Interaction designer

  • Graphic designer

  • Product designer

  • Animation designer

A digital design career takes the same skills and understanding of print design and brings those visions to life with interactivity, three-dimensional modelling, and animation. Whether you’re creating banner ads, movies, or other interactive elements of a web page or app, you’ll be sharing messages with an audience using modern methods that rely on data to measure your success. Digital designers often work remotely, offering opportunities worldwide.

Where do digital designers work

Some digital designers work full-time for companies that range from computer systems to advertising to management consulting. Others prefer the flexibility of working freelance. Whichever path you choose, you’ll want to build an impressive portfolio to show prospective employers and clients.

Digital designer skills

Employers or clients seek professionals who are comfortable and prepared with a wide range of technical skills. To land a job as a digital designer, you must be able to demonstrate a mastery of both client relations and today’s most used tools.

Technical skills and common tools

Set yourself apart as a professional digital designer with demonstrable mastery of specific technical skills and software programmes used to create interactive designs. These technical skills require both training and application. You can present a portfolio of your work experience to potential clients and employers to demonstrate your skills in areas such as:

  • Layout and navigation

  • Colour and typography

  • Design principles

  • Mobile-first design

  • Design software

  • HTML, CSS, or JQuery

Learn Adobe Suite

Adobe Suite ranks among the most popular digital design software programs. Whether you're just getting started or are a seasoned designer, it's always a good idea to brush up on your Adobe design skills. This suite of programs includes:

- Adobe Photoshop

- Adobe InDesign

- Adobe Illustrator

- Adobe Acrobat Premiere Pro

- Adobe Dreamweaver


Workplace skills

A strong portfolio may be required by employers to demonstrate your ability to complete tasks and create beautiful designs, they may also require other skills that you should include in your CV. These workplace skills are more difficult to measure but can make the difference in an effort to secure more work:

  • Communication: Digital designers often collaborate with larger teams. Learning to ask direct questions, listen actively, and present your designs to others can make for a better workplace environment.

  • Customer service: The most effective digital designers listen carefully to client requests and requirements, deliver professional advice, and accept constructive criticism, all in an effort to delight the client with the finished product.  

  • Flexibility and creativity: Digital design is innovative by its very nature. You’ll always be learning new tools, software systems, and new technologies. Learn to see yourself as a lifelong learner, and plan on discovering new ways of working whenever possible.


A degree isn't always necessary to become a digital designer, but earning a bachelor's degree (BSc) in digital design or a related field could open up new jobs or promotional opportunities.

You can find degree programmes that offer full-time study over three years or take a four-year option with a placement year. The placement year gives you opportunities for hands-on experience with creative industries. Consider checking each school you’re interested in for their admission policies. Some schools may require a General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) or an equivalent. 

Some roles that don’t require a BSc include the following:

  • Graphic designer: To enter the field of graphic design, you can begin by achieving a foundation degree or a higher national diploma. 

  • UX designer: If you’re interested in working as a UX designer, a university or college course can qualify you, or you can apply for an apprenticeship.

  • Web designer: The pathway into this role is by taking university or college courses. You can also apply for an apprenticeship.

  • Product designer: You can apply for a role as a product designer by getting a foundation degree or higher national diploma. A university course or apprenticeship can also help you advance into a role as a product designer.

Freelance opportunities vs. full-time employment

Digital designers have a wide variety of work opportunities, including UI design, photography, videography, animation, and more. Each project will be different, even if your role focuses on a particular element of its construction. Best of all, with the right skills and experience, these professionals typically earn more than traditional graphic designers.

The question for many is whether it’s better to land a job as a digital designer with a specific company or firm or break out on your own as a freelancer. Let’s look at the pros and cons of freelancing:

Benefits of freelancingChallenges of freelancing
Flexibility to choose projects and clientsLack of workplace benefits
Ability to determine the value of your timeNeed to seek new work continually
Remote working opportunitiesChallenges with balancing work and personal life
Creation of your own scheduleTax implications, depending on your home country

Frequently, digital designers—like many creative professionals—will gain experience with full-time jobs before branching out on their own. It takes an expanding professional network and impressive portfolio of work to land clients that pay well and provide interesting work for a rewarding freelance career. 

Get started in digital design

If you’re ready to start your digital design career, be sure to check out the Google UX Design Professional Certificate on Coursera. This professional certificate can help you build the skills needed for a career as a digital designer, and you’ll complete projects that you can use to build a portfolio. This programme consists of seven courses that cover UX design and research, mockup, Figma, Adobe XD, and much more. Upon completion, you’ll be prepared for an entry-level position in the creative field.

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