How to Understand Digital Design: Creativity is Not an Option

By Jessica Ann
June 12, 2014

It’s important to understand how to target your audience through web design. It could be that thinking of it as merely a tool is missing the point. Many advances start as a tool, but then either trigger adaptation of processes and workflows – or fade away into irrelevance.

One or two employees or stakeholders will mention in passing that they are using this new tool, or that new technique. Eventually, someone will ask them why, and for more details. A decision maker will see the light, and the entire team will soon be “on-boarded” with the new stuff. Suddenly, an early adopter’s little-known toy can become the linchpin of an entire company’s success.


Design Goes Digital

Design is, at its core, the art of practicality. There is always a driving purpose to which a design is directed. The modern smartphone is most often designed as a “candy bar” because the shape is easy to hold and manipulate with one hand. Over time, smartphones have become larger as use cases have shifted (the original iPhone didn’t even have apps). Photo browsing and reading are now dominant activities on smartphones and the larger screens improve user experience.

Before the digital age, design was a solely tactile pursuit. Whether drawing up building plans or sculpting product prototypes, designers worked with their hands and often in three dimensions. The rise of digital tools and techniques didn’t, or at least shouldn’t, change the approaches taken by great designers. In other words, those who excelled at design before digital are still in a great position to lead.

The Tools Change, But the Goal Remains the Same

Digital design is so much more than a tool. Instead, it is a perspective. Digital design leaders don’t simply know which software works best for a project, or which programming languages to use on the front-end and the server side. They understand great digital design still has the goal of furthering an artistic or business objective. The digital doesn’t displace the practical. It just empowers designers to get there more accurately and efficiently.

The creative types will dominate if they understand this. And those lacking creativity will remain inadequate despite having all the digital tools in the world. Digital design requires at least a working knowledge of the essential languages of front-end work, like CSS and HTML, the ability to mock up designs in graphic design software and to adapt them to many display contexts. But at the end of the day, discerning client or project goals and maintaining that thread throughout the design process is, as it has always been, the most important part of design.

Awareness as Adaptation

Understanding digital design then isn’t necessarily about being a PhotoShop expert or mastering CSS animations. Remember Flash? It came, it saw, it conquered, and then it became an outdated design mode overused by restaurants and unusable on mobile devices. Yes, it’s still the basis of some of the most fun distractions on the Internet.

Digital design is less about being distracted by every possibility. And more about being aware of what is out there, what is outmoded, and what is on the horizon. The real adaptation isn’t in mastering everything that comes along. But in being aware of it and knowing when you’re the expert and when it’s time to call for help. Digital or not, the most important part of design is using creativity to achieve practical goals.


This entry was posted on Thursday, June 12th, 2014 at 2:14 pm and is filed under Web Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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