By: Jay Daignault
On: September 14, 2012
Digital graphic and web design involves the creative process of building attractive websites for target audiences. Digital graphic design conveys a specific message, usually in the form of images that individuals remember. Digital graphic designers combine words, symbols, and images to create a representation of a specific idea or message. Web designers focus on creating the platform to place those images, and any other related content meant to emphasize the idea of the website. Both designers use a variety of techniques, software, and knowledge to gain and maintain repeat visitors.
Design Theory: The Elements and Principles of Design
Designers follow a basics set of elements and principles that apply to almost any format ranging from websites to magazine spreads. Web designers know how to implement these basic principles to create an effective layout that captures the attention of visitors. Web design involves more than slapping a bunch of HTML tags, graphic uploads, and content onto a page. In fact, the majority of web designers agree that they practice an exact art.
Effective web design incorporates a sense of balance, or even distribution of heavy and light elements on a page. A webpage with larger, darker elements appears heavier than its counterparts. Web designers who provide balance to their webpage understand how to make it work for their intended audience. Design also features adequate contrast of colors, shapes, sizes, and textures. Contrast enables visitors to focus on the emphasis of the page. The emphasis draws the attention of the visitor towards the main idea or features on the webpage.
Amateur web designers try to emphasize everything on the page; however, this can create a bland and flat presentation for those who stay long enough to look at the entire layout. Professional web designers also understand the importance of rhythm, or sensible patterns that do not distract visitors from the main point of the webpage. Lastly, effective web design unites like elements together and diverse elements away from each other. Unity pulls everything together into one functional masterpiece.
- Moving Theory Into Practice: Digital Imaging Tutorial
- Design Elements and Principles (PDF)
- Designing for the World Wide Web
- Web Design Principles Checklist
- Introduction to Visual Design Theory
- The Elements and Principles of Design
Tools For Digital Graphics
Professional digital graphic designers use a variety of tools to make their ideas into a reality. Digital graphic designers cannot create alluring images without a computer. A computer enables the digital graphic designer to execute graphic software, create illustrations, choose typography, edit photographs and saved files, and complete layouts. Many beginner digital graphic designers have trouble choosing the type of computer they will need to complete their work. A digital graphic designer needs a computer with ample RAM, and hard drive space to run design software. The majority of graphic designers use Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash animation to make creative designs for their page layouts. Freelance graphic designers may also need project management and time tracking software for the business end of design. Digital graphic designers typically have a large library of design books with tutorials, helpful tips, and technical information.
- Photoshop 7.0 Lessons
- Introduction to Photoshop
- Adobe Photoshop: Instructional Strategies, Tutorials, and Resources
- An Introduction to Adobe Illustrator
- A Comprehensive Adobe Illustrator Guide
- Flash Animation Tutorials
Digital Graphic Project Ideas
Digital graphic designers may need to borrow project ideas from mainstream sources for inspiration, especially if they have just entered the field. Many sources provide digital graphic project ideas with full-blown instructions on how to create the image in front of them. Others may provide general hints and outlines to achieve a similar image. The professional digital graphic designer may create their own digital graphic projects; however, sometimes they need a little inspiration to kick-start their internal creative process.
- Graphic Translation: A Graphic Design Project Guide (PDF)
- Design Your Name: Graphic Design Project (PDF)
- A Web and Graphic Designer’s Workbook (PDF)
- Module 1: Introduction to Web Graphics
- Software and Design Tips, Tricks and Tutorials
- Making a Statue in Photoshop
Web Design Tools
Many people sit in front of their computer completely dumbfounded on the right steps to take to create their first website. Web design can seem complex for those who have no foundational knowledge about the World Wide Web, including HTML code, CSS, Java, Flash animation, and more. The amateur web designer only needs to find or invest in a few inexpensive software programs, such as a text editor, image editor, FTP client, and a few Internet web browsers.
Novices should not confuse a text editor with a word processor. In fact, a text editor functions as a platform to edit text. Common text editors are NotePad, SimpleText, and TextEdit. A web designer simply formats the text in a language that the computer can easily understand, usually HTML or Hyper Text Markup Language. Basic web design requires an individual to input commands, or HTML tags, that the computer executes and converts to a layout or image on the screen. Nowadays, web designers can simply purchase user-friendly software, such as Dreamweaver, that inputs the HTML code for them after they perform a drag/drop function.
Web designers may also edit images that they intend to upload onto their webpage using an image editor, such as Adobe’s Photoshop and ImageReady, its companion software. Image editors can prove user-friendly in their most basic form; however, it can get pretty advanced for complex designs. After making slight adjustments to their images, web designers simply upload the page layout, image, and content via FTP client software. A host of companies offer FTP client software for web designers. All FTP client software functions differently; therefore, the web designer can explore their options. After uploading the files to the FTP server, the web designer can test to see how it appears on the World Wide Web using a series of Internet browsers, such as Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Safari.
- Implementing Skip Navigation
- Web Design Fundamentals
- Web Authoring Tools
- Designing More Usable Web Sites
Web Design Techniques
As with any profession, web designers employ different techniques that help develop an effective page. One mistake that amateur web designers make lies with the number of typefaces they use on one page alone. As a general rule of thumb, effective websites only use a few typefaces of a similar style, either san serif or serif. Most web browsers recognize a few common fonts that the majority of web designers use to avoid viewer complications.
Web designers understand the importance of an organized page layout to improve the navigational friendliness for the end-user. In addition, navigation should remain consistent on all existing pages connected from the homepage. Web designers accomplish this by building a navigational bar into the homepage. As part of the overall page layout, web designers usually incorporate sidebars, advertisement space, and content blocks to keep things aligned and balanced. Web designers usually dedicate a portion of the page layout specifically for these purposes; however, the position of content blocks and advertisement space may differ from page to page.
Professional web designers must ensure that their page layout adheres to current standards, especially errors in code. Web designers must identify all ID numbers and classes properly, usually through a description of element’s performance. A website that does not conform to current standards may render a website unusual or error prone. Web designers must also implement good visual design that works for their target audience, typically a group of individuals with a niche interest. If working for a specific client, web designers should represent the products, services, or information by portraying it favorably. The visual design of a website should never deter the attention of the visitor. In fact, it should always complement the existing content to capture the visitor’s attention towards the emphasis of the website.
Professional web designers realize that users should understand how the website works. If visitors fail to understand the basic design of the webpage, then they will likely leave it altogether; however, this defeats the purpose. Effective web designers want to drive traffic to their websites and maintain their loyalty. As with brick and mortar storefronts, web designers want to attract repeat visitors, so that they will continue to support the main idea behind the page.