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The evolution of online graphic designers

When the web started to become a business and marketing tool that needed to look professional and eventually have a ‘wow’ factor, graphic designers were quick to respond. Their core skills around typography, color, layout and overall branding mixed with the underlying foundation of communication seemed to be the best fit. This fit hasn’t changed – but the designers have.

Designers originally used their traditional skills to create beautiful sites and over time learned things such as optimizing a photo at 72dpi and how to use HTML fonts in a way that creates just as much of a visual interest as graphic fonts. But over time there has been an evolution of the role that designers have played within the interactive world. This shift has required designers to continue focusing on the same core skills they always have, but to combine them with new problem solving skills that involve branding, technology, business drivers, usability, content strategy, marketing and information or interaction design.

How has this evolution affected their role? Designers are pushing to create things that are innovative and account for more than just the ‘look and feel’ as they have in the past. Designers are also starting to get tired of using “Lorem Ipsum” and want to create something meaningful that includes real copy. Similar to an advertising approach, the need for rich engaging copy to match visuals is becoming a necessary part of designing. Research and usability have also played a huge role in this evolution – learning online behaviors such as people don’t read or if they do they scan a page and have particular “hot spots”. Technologies like AJAX and Flash are probably the most obvious factor contributing to this evolution, forcing designers to think about motion and “states” rather than pages and click-throughs. Technology has played an instrumental part in evolving designers to think beyond static pages and information. The most significant driver are the users themselves. They are expecting more which means designers need to deliver more.

Ultimately designers are being asked to help solve the complexities between strategy, content, design, information and technology, and this process is creating a new breed of interactive graphic designers.

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