What Is Digital Design?

Digital designers collaborating in office

More than 45,000 years ago, ancient humans in present-day Indonesia created the oldest known cave paintings in the world.1 Clearly, human species have long felt the urge to leave something of themselves behind for future generations to experience, and quite often, these legacies are artistic in nature.

Today, humans have access to far more options when it comes to making their mark on the world as artists. Digital design, for example, is exploding in popularity.2 What is digital design and how can you build a digital design career? Continue reading to find out!

What Is Digital Design?

The simplest definition of digital design is that it is any work of art created or presented with digital technology, or both. Digital art is often categorized under the umbrella term “new media art.”

The term graphic design may be more common and traditional than digital design. However, digital design has growing prevalence. Digital design is similar to graphic design in many respects. However, in contrast to graphic design which may involve designs such as logos and print designs, digital designers work with digital platforms to create engaging content such as animations or websites on a digital interface.

Types of Digital Design

Now that you know the answer to the question, “What is digital design?” it’s time to take a look at the various types of digital design.

  • 2D artwork: 2D digital art looks very similar to a painting or drawing that an artist might render on an easel. It involves the use of a tablet and a handheld stylus, along with design software. The artist selects digital brush sizes and textures, paint types and mediums, and then draws or paints on the tablet using a stylus.
  • 3D artwork: As the name suggests, 3D digital art looks three dimensional on the screen, much like a cartoon, game, or film. Artists use advanced 3D modeling software to draw, paint or sculpt. To better understand the difference between 2D and 3D digital design, consider the appearance of a cartoon such as The Simpsons (2D) versus the Pixar movie The Incredibles (3D).
  • Fractal art: Fractal art has roots in ancient Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, where artists would decorate temples and similar venues with highly intricate fractal mosaics. Today, digital fractal art uses mathematical equations to create these complex patterns. For example, fractal art can be based on the Fibonacci sequence.
  • Digital photography: These days, digital photography is more accessible than ever. After all, anyone with a smartphone can be a digital photographer. Using photo editing software, digital artists can adjust their digital photos, such as by enhancing, adding or removing features.
  • VR painting: One of the newest forms of digital art is painting in virtual reality. While wearing VR devices, artists can use digital brushes, paints and other tools to “paint” on the air around them. VR paintings and sculptures can look incredibly realistic using this form.
  • Photobashing: Photobashing is a specialized technique that takes real-life images and then combines them with 2D or 3D graphics, or both. Most often, photobashing artists blend together realistic elements from the real-life images with whimsical or fantastical elements that come straight out of science fiction.

These are just a few of the most popular types of digital design. As you continue to explore this dynamic medium, you’re sure to discover which types and techniques are best suited to your artistic skills and aesthetic preference.

What Type of Digital Design Degree Should You Earn?

To become a professional digital artist, you should plan on earning some type of digital design degree. The specific degree you should earn depends largely on your exact career ambitions.

For example, you may aspire to become a digital animator who works for an animation studio. If this is the case, you should plan on earning a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Design with an Emphasis in Animation. During the course of your studies, you will learn about motion technologies, production methods, 3D motion design, layout and composition, among other key topics.

On the other hand, you might be interested in a career in digital film, but not specifically animation. If so, you could earn a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Film with an Emphasis in Production. You’ll learn about topics such as digital video production, visual storytelling, cinematography and digital post-production techniques.

Other degree options include specializations in web design, social media or graphic design. All of these types of digital design degrees will enable you to pursue your passion by giving you the technical expertise you’ll need for your future career. If you’re not quite sure exactly which degree is right for you, you might consider talking to your high school guidance counselor about internships and job shadowing opportunities to help you narrow down your choices.

Building Your Digital Design Career

While you are earning your digital design degree, you’ll begin working on your professional portfolio. Your portfolio should showcase your most impressive skills, so select your best pieces from your classwork to include. You may wish to create your own website (there are many free and low-cost options) to host your portfolio and give it a more professional look.

For an artist, practice is essential. Go above and beyond what’s expected in your classes by practicing your skills and techniques on your own time. The more you practice your digital design skills, the better you’ll become.

Consider exploring internship opportunities as well, either during the school year or the summer break. Not only will you gain invaluable experience, but you’ll also acquire some references that you can use as you look for your first job after college.

Throughout your digital design career, remember to periodically refresh your professional portfolio. Remove older pieces that no longer reflect your improved skills, and upload new work that does.

If you aspire to build a digital design career for yourself, you’ll find a supportive academic community at Grand Canyon University. The College of Arts and Media is pleased to offer a number of digital design degree options, including the Bachelor of Arts in Digital Design with an Emphasis in Animation degree, the Bachelor of Arts in Social Media, the Bachelor of Arts in Digital Film with an Emphasis in Production program and the Bachelor of Arts in Digital Design with an Emphasis in Web Design degree. Graduates will emerge with the technical expertise, artistic design sense and practical workplace skills needed to make their mark on the design community.

You can begin working toward a rewarding career as a digital designer by clicking on Request Info at the top of your screen.


Retrieved from:

1 BBC, Indonesia: Archaeologists Find World's Oldest Animal Cave Painting in June 2022.

2 Digital Skills Global, Why Digital Design is the Best Next Career Step for Graphic Designers in June 2022.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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