Online Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Media

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What Is Digital Media? Examining Opportunities in Design Technology

As the worlds of business, communication, and entertainment continue to embrace virtual mediums, digital media is more relevant than ever. This field, which encompasses communication through visual and virtual means, is applicable in many industries and speaks to a growing need for new ways to exchange ideas and information through compelling media.

Individuals interested in pursuing a career in this growing and relevant field should consider earning a bachelor’s degree in digital media.

A woman works with a computer in an office in the city.

Definition: What Is Digital Media?

The Digital Media Association refers to digital and streaming as “the future of media content,” but exactly what is digital media? Digital media represents the union of artistic talent, creativity, and technical skill to design everything from video game animations to company websites. Because this broad field allows for many areas of specialization, digital media professionals often focus on a single area of expertise.

With a wide array of applications, digital media is only becoming more relevant. A report by the World Economic Forum indicates the many benefits of digital media, including the facilitation of social interaction and civic participation, more efficient and flexible work environments, and ongoing education.

Digital media has become integral to day-to-day business operations. According to 2019 data from Pew Research Center, 90% of Americans use the internet, 28% of adults are nearly constantly online, and 96% of Americans own some type of cellphone.  This provides an avenue through which nonprofits, corporations, and government organizations can reach their target audience and open the door to more candid and frequent conversations.

Skills That Digital Media Graduates Learn

When it comes to what digital media is for those pursuing a degree in the field, it’s about learning how to create products that are both functional and visually appealing. As a result, a typical digital media curriculum will allow students to gain a strong foundation in the following skill sets:

  • Art: Digital media is visual. Whether the product is part of a new animation or a company’s brand, it should take into consideration aesthetic appeal and art theory. Knowledge of areas such as art history and the psychology of design is essential.
  • Communication: The purpose of visual products is often to communicate a core message to end users. Students gain skills in marketing, branding, and the visual representation of information to convey their point through media.
  • User experience (UX) and user interface (UI): Creativity is only half of what digital media consists of. It isn’t enough to simply create a product that looks good — it must also function well. Skills and knowledge in effective UX and UI, along with a foundation in website design or game design, help digital media graduates develop media pieces that are technologically sound and take into consideration how users will interact with the end product.

In addition to these skills, graduates often develop an intimate familiarity with programming languages and tools like Adobe Suite, allowing them to create a portfolio of high-quality samples within their area of focus.

What Can You Do with a Digital Media Degree?

Because there are endless applications for digital media products, the demand for experts is experiencing an upward trend. Graduates with a degree in digital media often encounter a variety of career options. So, what can you do with a digital media degree?

Web Development and Design

When a developer creates a website, functionality is key. Developers rely on a keen understanding of coding languages to build websites that respond to a variety of devices and browsers. In addition, they take the end-user experience of the site into account, using the website should lead to a positive experience. Web designers tend to focus more on the visual aesthetic of the website, though they may also be proficient programmers.

Web Developers

Recent trends in web development and design indicate the value of this potential career path. A Pew Research Center report indicates that, as of 2019, 81% of Americans owned smartphones, providing them with immediate access to the internet, where they can engage with brands, purchase products, and participate in social media. Ensuring that websites and apps are eye-catching and practical is key. As more companies take their business online, the need for web developers is growing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates 13% job growth in the profession between 2018 and 2028 as a direct response to an increase in consumer reliance on e-commerce and mobile devices. According to the BLS, web developers earn an annual median salary of $73,760.

Digital Branding and Marketing

What digital media is for branding and marketing experts is the means for identifying and representing their companies and products in the market. Digital media is integral to the success of businesses and includes the development of brand assets such as logos and color palettes, the design of promotional campaigns, and the integration of visual media into forward-facing content. This remains as important as ever in today’s digital world.

Graphic Designers and Art Directors

Graduates interested in a career in digital branding and marketing often seek graphic design positions. New trends in color schemes, logo creation, and 3D imagery point to exciting opportunities in this field, which the BLS predicts will grow 3% between 2018 and 2028. Growth will vary by industry, with positions in computer systems and related fields growing 24%. Graphic designers earn an annual median salary of $52,110, according to the BLS. Graphic designers may also secure positions as art directors, who earn a median annual wage of $94,220 and often lead teams of graphic designers, illustrators, and photographers.

Motion Graphics and Video Game Design

Both television and film rely heavily on the skills of motion graphics experts. What is digital media for these creatives? Designers in this field develop storyboards and create animations that deliver cohesive visual effects. The advent of modern computer-generated imagery (CGI) has led to an increased demand for these digital media skills, with Comscore reporting growth in the film industry to a market value of $42.5 billion in 2019.

The gaming industry also looks to motion graphics experts to create realistic and seamless stories that are visually engaging. According to one report from SuperData, the video game industry alone was worth more than $120 billion in 2019. With gamers making use of a variety of platforms — including desktop computers, mobile devices, and consoles — there is no lack of opportunity for digital media experts who specialize in animation and motion graphics.

Motion Graphics Experts, Multimedia Artists, and Animators

Motion graphics experts often seek multimedia artist or animator positions. Whether working in television, film, or video games, there is ample opportunity, with the BLS reporting the annual median salary of multimedia artists and animators as $75,270. The profession is expected to see employment growth of 4% between 2018 and 2028.

Digital Illustration

Art meets technology in the field of digital illustration. Whether creating posters, book jackets, fliers, or other materials, a keen eye for color, layout, and typography will go far. Digital illustrators may work with print or online media, and often integrate aspects of web design, animation, and graphic design into their work. They must be proficient with current technology and offer ample creative insight.

Digital Illustrators

Since digital illustrators can pursue careers in any number of fields, the opportunities to seek a career leveraging this skill set are numerous. Among the most common fields digital illustrators enter are marketing and web design, both of which project growth in the coming years. The BLS places the career of digital illustrators in the category of graphic designers.

Pursue a Career in Digital Media

As employers gain a more complete understanding of what digital media is and recognize the value it brings to their organizations, those who work in this area could encounter new opportunities to advance in their careers. Aspiring designers who have a dual passion for art and technology may find that earning a degree in digital media can be a decisive step toward achieving their professional goals.

Discover how an online bachelor’s in digital media from Maryville University inspires students to build professional portfolios and gain hands-on experience that can be invaluable in future jobs.

Recommended Readings:

Marketing in the 21st Century: How Does Digital Media Affect the Marketing Mix?

Design in the Digital Age: Must-Have Tools for Graphic Designers

A Guide to Activism in the Digital Age

Sources:

Billboard, “2019 Global Box Office Revenue Hit Record $42.5B Despite 4 Percent Dip in U.S.”

Digital Media Association, About DiMA

Pew Research Center, “10% of Americans Don’t Use the Internet. Who Are They?”

Pew Research Center, “About three-in-ten U.S. adults say they are ‘almost constantly’ online”

Pew Research Center, Mobile Fact Sheet Superdata, 2019 Year In Review Digital Games and Interactive Media

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Art Directors

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Graphic Designers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Multimedia Artists and Animators

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Web Developers

World Economic Forum, “Digital Media and Society — Benefits and Opportunities”