What Is Digital Media? A Look at 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.

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

Defining 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. A 2018 Pew Research Center study indicated that 88% of Americans used the internet, with some demographics in another study reporting usage as high as 97%. 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

In general, students who study digital media learn 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 in areas like art history and the psychology of design are 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 digital media. 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 Is a Digital Media Career?

Because there are endless applications for digital media products, the demand for experts is experiencing an upward trend. Graduates with a digital media degree often encounter a variety of career options. These include:

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 on a variety of devices and browsers. In addition, they take the end user experience of the site into account, using the website leads to a positive experience. Web designers tend to focus more on the visual aesthetic of the website, though they may also be proficient programmers.

Recent trends in web development and design indicate the value of this potential career path. A Pew Research Center report indicates that, as of 2018, 77% 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 only growing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates 15% growth between 2016 and 2026, a direct response to an increase in consumer reliance on ecommerce and mobile devices.

Digital Branding and Marketing

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

Graduates interested in a career in digital branding and marketing often seek graphic design positions. New trends in color scheme, logo creation, and 3-D imagery point to exciting opportunities in this field, which the BLS predicts will grow 4% between 2016 and 2026. Graphic designers may also secure positions as art directors who, with experience, can earn a median annual wage of $92,500 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 Statista reporting growth in the film industry from a market value of $38 billion in 2016 to a predicted $50 billion in 2020.

The video game industry also looks to motion graphics experts to create realistic and seamless stories that are visually engaging. According to one report from WePC, the video game industry alone will be worth over $90 billion by 2020. 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 often seek multimedia artist or animator positions. Whether working in television, film, or video games, there is ample opportunity, with the BLS reporting an anticipated 8% growth in jobs between 2016 and 2026.

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.

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 forecasts the number of jobs for digital illustrators and other types of multimedia artists and animators to increase 8 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Learn More About Pursuing a Future 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. Learn how Maryville University’s online bachelor’s in digital media program inspires students to build professional portfolios and gain hands-on experience that can be invaluable in future jobs.

Sources:

Pew Research Center, 11% of Americans Don’t Use the Internet. Who Are They?

Pew Research Center, Americans’ Internet Access: 2000 – 2015

Pew Research Center, Mobile Fact Sheet

Princeton Review, Digital Artist

Statista, Film Industry – Statistics and Facts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Art Directors

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Graphic Designers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Web Developers

WePC, Video Gaming Industry Overview

World Economic Forum, “Human Implications of Digital Media: Benefits and Opportunities”