4 tips for transitioning from a print to a digital designer

By Emma Campbell

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Image by rawpixel

I graduated university with a Bachelor of Design — majoring in Graphic Design. I thought being a print designer was my future career and it was all I’d ever known.

It wasn’t until spending a few months in the ‘real world’ post graduation that I began to realise that digital was something I was really interested by. I threw myself into learning all I could about digital design. Fast forward a few years and I call myself a digital designer.

If you’re considering the move from print to digital then here are my top 4 tips:

1. You have to really want it

Deciding to transition from print to digital is the first step but it doesn’t happen overnight. Like all good things it will take hard work and determination. Wanting to make the change purely because it can pay more? You need to stop now and rethink. If you’re not passionate about it and have no desire to keep up with new technologies, softwares and trends then you’ll never be able to excel. Digital is rapidly evolving and the people who will triumph are the ones that have the drive to constantly learn, practise and improve.

2. Learn basic code

You don’t need to become a coding ninja, but understanding the fundamentals of website development can be hugely beneficial as a digital designer. Learning even just HTML and CSS helps you create designs that are easier to develop. More importantly, it provides common ground with front-end developers that enables you to collaborate more efficiently in both handing off a design and giving providing specific feedback. Front-end developers definitely appreciate it when you can tell them the padding needs to increased by 15px instead of just saying “make it bigger”.

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A desktop vs mobile layout

3. Check out website responsiveness

One of the big differences between print and digital is dimensions. When you design for print you are designing for a specific size, whereas with digital, your canvas size can be dynamically resized at any time. An effective way to kick start your understanding of responsive design is to view the same website on multiple devices and browser sizes. Watch how the content reacts to the size of the browser as you increase and decrease the height and width. Compare a desktop website to the mobile version and see how they have structured the layout. Simply studying a website’s responsiveness will help you begin to master digital design.

4. Get intimate with your software

You always have the ability to learn and improve and the only way to do that is practise. Take the time to discover all the features your software has to offer and utilise them as often as you can — what works for print design isn’t necessarily the optimal software for digital.

Put together responsive designs in Sketch and learn to use symbols to keep your file tidy and easy to edit. Take your designs to test them and the user journey through InVision. Utilise Principle to experiment with animations and transitions that can be incorporated into your design.

Written by

UX Designer @ Tyk. Kiwi living in Ireland | emma-campbell.com

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