I’ve always been passionate about designing. I loved art and graphic design in school, but I also loved IT. I always wanted a career that combined the two and knew that’s what I wanted to do in the future from a young age. The only question was how could I apply this?
When I was at school, digital design wasn’t really painted into being a career the same as it is now. UI and UX design didn’t exist and mobile web design wasn’t anywhere near as important as it is now. This is simply because the technology we use now didn’t exist at the time. Or at least it didn’t exist in the same way it does now. More traditional design such as print, and desktop web design were examples of the sort of designing I was doing early in my career.
The tech industry, and by default digital design has evolved fast over the last ten years. So, what’s changed? How is digital design different now than ten years ago?
What was digital design like when I was at school?
My GCSE’s were the first time I got to let my creativity flow. My introduction to digital design was the use of design software such as Adobe Fireworks and Dreamweaver during my IT GCSE. This was great for me as it was the first time I got to combine both my love of creativity and IT. As much as I enjoyed traditional design I also found that I had a real passion for interactivity, I realised early on that the future would be in tech and I was eager to enter that world. When I realised I could also design through the likes of Adobe software I knew that was where I needed to direct my focus.
I was able to create graphics for web pages without getting deep into code. The idea of web design was lightweight and aesthetically pleasing and exactly what I wanted to do.
How digital design evolved over the next few years
As I entered college and university, digital design started to mould into what we know digital design to be today. I studied Interactive Media at college where I learnt more about web and animation, I also got to learn about videography and photography and incorporate that into my designs. University was where I really learnt the skills that I apply to my job role now as a UI/UX Designer. My course was Design for Digital Media, where I worked on projects creating wireframes, sitemaps and eventually working on the user interface of desktop and mobile websites. Nowadays, designing for handheld devices has become very important, five years ago, designing for websites was where the focus was.
It was at university that I learnt more about the UX side of design, such as sitemaps, wireframes and user flows. When I was at university UX and UI were taught as one, however as digital design has progressed to reflect the expanding tech industry, UX has moulded into its own sector. I was always very passionate about visual side (UI design). However, thanks to the skills I picked up at uni I can do both UX and UI.
The working world of digital design
As I left university, I really began to see how the digital design world was growing and how in demand digital designers were becoming. I started work in the real world as a graphic designer. Mainly I was doing prints, such as designing for leaflets. This was at a time when print was still well used. It was only after I prompted that I could also design websites that I gained the experience I really needed. I started designing for mobile websites.
Mobile web browsing has been growing since 2009, while desktop viewing has decreased. Now, most visitors to your website will be through a mobile device. All the years I had been learning how to design for traditional websites, everything I learnt at college and university shifted and there was a demand for designs for mobile. Mobile users want to see a simple and pleasing interface that they can browse easily on the go. Mobile compatibility and user-friendly designs also became increasingly important, as google penalises you if your website isn’t mobile friendly.
How did things change when I joined Dreamr?
I started my role at Dreamr this year, since my first day I’ve been totally immersed into the app development world. I saw how quickly mobile web design boomed and I thought the next step would be designing for apps. Dreamr was the perfect move for me. When I first started as a digital designer, I was the only designer in the team. This meant I was taking on both the UI and UX sides of design myself. Even though I am capable of UX, I know full well that my strength lies in UI design. With the arrival of a UX designer, we managed to play to our strengths and create the best products possible. Despite this, UX is something I would like to continue expanding my knowledge on.
Dreamr also provided me with the opportunity to be more client facing. In my previous roles I didn’t often meet the clients I was designing for. Its great that with Dreamr I get to meet the people I am creating products for. As a designer it allows me to get to know the client better and really get a feel of what they want, and what the user desires.
How has UI design evolved specifically?
One of the main shifts in UI was the move towards flat design from 3D looking buttons and icons. Simplified icons and single tone colours look better on smaller screens and reduce load times. To improve usability the navigation is now streamlined with many options moved under drop down menus. The result of the changes is an app that is easier to browse, read and navigate.
Following on from this, other noticeable trends for mobile applications have been things such as cards and modular design (think Tinder and Pinterest).
Flat, modernised design of a mobile app
Also, by taking a minimalist approach it creates a clean and professional looking UI and adding blur effects easily identifies which elements of an application are working. There is also the introduction of drag-down gestures to refresh an app, and mobile on-boarding for first time visitors or when launching new functionalities.
So why has digital design changed so rapidly?
There are lots of reasons for this. From people’s attitudes changing and technology advancing. Its also due to users wanting to view different things, through to the more internal reasons such as advances in software that we use for digital design and fashionable trends that users want to see. For example, I originally learnt how to design for websites, designing for mobile apps wasn’t even on my radar until recently. It’s the advancement of technology like smartphones and tablets that have led to digital designers now designing for mobile and apps as well as traditional desktop sites. As designers, we have had to evolve to keep up with the ever-growing tech world.
Design is never static. New innovations like the Material Design Kit and the development of the Apple watch will result in even more changes in design. However, focusing on what is important to the user will always be the most important thing.