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What is an Interactive Graphic Designer?

by Jason Holland Interactive Graphic Designer

When I was in college there were essential principles of Graphic Design I had to learn. These fundamentals include color theory, typography and layout. These are the foundation of good design, regardless of the medium. In the real world, there are many other things that I’ve had to learn to become an Interactive Graphic Designer.

Among many things, I have had to learn the technology a website is built on, the platform or browser(s) targeted, development (coding), functionality, usability, user experience, and search engine optimization (SEO).

The technology behind a website can include the code, a database and content management system. Understanding what’s under the hood and what type of site is being built dictates layout, content and functionality.

In addition to knowing what the site is built on, I have to understand the challenges of the browsers a site is designed for. For example, the Internet Explorer 6 browser has limitations that modern browsers have over come. Designing to all browsers, and making sure the site functions and looks the way it’s supposed to in IE6, can have an impact on layout and how I want the site to look.

Also, today’s web design has to take in to consideration the mobile browsing experience. Designing for a mobile device means creating a site that loads quickly and is accessible on a much smaller screen.

As an Interactive Graphic Designer, I also need to know how to code at least the Front-End Development (usually HTML and CSS) and have some understanding of other programming languages like JavaScript and PHP. Knowing how to code a site gives me a clearer picture for how I can design the page layout.

Usually before a site is designed, let alone built, there should be a firm grasp on the audience the site is intended for. How the site functions, how it’s used, and how the user interacts with the site are all questions that should be answered to convert visitors in to customers. If a user doesn’t understand how to navigate the site or cannot find the content they are looking for, they will go somewhere else to get what they need.

Finally, knowing what it takes to make a site searchable by search engines, impacts typography, layout, and the overall look and feel. If text is in a graphic, for example, search engines will not be able to read it. The current standards for typography on the web limit the fonts that can be used. As a result, how the typography looks is dictated by what fonts are generally on most operating systems. While new browser standards are being developed that allow for a wider variety in fonts, the text still has to be searchable.

In addition to understanding the basic principles of graphic design, as an Interactive Graphic Designer there are many other skills I have to have. Creating a design that functions on the web means understanding the technology, how a site functions, and who the audience is.

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