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Breaking into the world of Digital


Doug Fitzgerald 

Recruitment Consultant at Aspire

We talk to Doug Fitzgerald from specialist Creative Technology recruiter, Aspire, to discover more about working as a Designer in the world of Digital.

What exactly is Digital Design?

With a plethora of digital technology it’s unsurprising that the term Digital Design does not fit into a neat little box.   There are a range potential job roles, for which the boundaries often blur.  A Digital Designer considers how a TV, website, mobile, email or other interface looks, a UX Designer considers how it feels – what the best user experience is and a UI Designer is concerned with how the product is laid out.  

Tell me about the Digital Design market right now

Companies are looking for special mixture of design capabilities with technical and coding understanding.  They aren’t necessarily expecting hand coding ability but an understanding of the limitations of HTML and CSS so the Designers can liaise more effectively with the Developers. 

In addition to HTML and CSS, there’s increasing demand for responsive design and HTML5 knowledge.   

The new tech start-ups we’re seeing in the market typically have smaller, agile design teams who handle web design, UX/ UI, marketing and advertising campaigns so they need designers with a full range of skills which bring both technical capability and conceptual thinking.   Conversely, media owners or digital media publishers will have larger teams with more designers who specialise in a specific areas.

Agency-side designers tend to have a significant conceptual side to their role.  They get to come up with unique campaign ideas and different ways to use technology, which is what makes these roles so appealing.      It’s not just about creating a website or a banner, it goes beyond that – how are you going to tell the story, how can digital drive a brand’s interaction with customers? 

What makes a good Digital Designer?  

A good designer is very inquisitive, it is not just about delivering the final product; they are going to be asking questions.  They see the bigger picture and ask what problem the product is solving. 

Good communicators, they have the ability to work with different teams; Account Managers, Product Managers, Creative Directors, Developers.   Digital Designers receive feedback from multiple sources, so you need to able to handle criticism as you’re never going to get the brief 100% right first time. 

In such a fast-moving industry – the ability to thrive on change and ability to learn and master new technologies quickly is key.

How can you break into the industry?

The industry is not too concerned with particular degrees, which is certainly positive for aspiring digital designers.  In terms of base line entry requirements, it is really beneficial to have Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign skills.  Then look to gain an understanding of HTML and CSS. Hands-on coding experience is advantageous, but not a core requirement for many roles.

Building and maintaining an awesome online design portfolio is crucial to showing what you can do.  You can do this via your own projects, or via an internship.   There are also awards such as D&AD’s New Blood Awards which give new designers the opportunity to design in response to real-life briefs – with all the opportunities that creates. 

Network, network, network!   Get yourself in front of those high level designers you respect and want to be like, ask for advice and guidance.  Be direct.   There are lots of design conferences and festivals for you to develop contacts with industry connections.  Combine this with following Creative Directors/ Design agencies on social media.  Every single portfolio of every major Designer is easily accessible online providing a great way to learn from others and make a connection.

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