Everyday Artists: How You Can Become a Digital Designer

Nowadays, it’s not enough for a company or business to have a website. In every industry, the standard for a corporation’s online presence becomes higher and higher each year. The ever-changing world of technology creates a source of ever-expanding job opportunities for designers of all types. It’s no mystery why savvy digital designers are in high demand—and will be for the foreseeable future. And, African American and other designers of color are key to that future.

Why Should You Go into Digital Design?

Practical know-how is arguably more important to a digital designer than most other visual artists. While having an eye for design is crucial, you must also bring technical proficiency to the table as you seek opportunities to design professionally. In short, you know what a striking, effective layout looks like, and you know how to create it using effective and reliable apps and other software.

It also helps if your work ethic aligns with the typical flow of a digital designer’s professional life. If you’re organized and benefit from a structured schedule of deadlines, it will benefit you greatly as you turn out work for a future employer or client. You should be able to work well alone, but you will also need to be a proficient communicator—whether you’re in a team setting with other designers or you’re completing a project for a client. If you’re interested in learning to master the many different programs a designer might use, you’ll likely enjoy your studies and a future career in the field. 

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Preparing for Success

Since technical skills are so essential to a career in digital design, it helps to learn the ropes as early as possible. In high school, take classes in computer science, web design and graphic design. Taking AP computer science will help you get a head start on advanced college coursework. Depending on which areas of digital design interest you, consider taking classes in journalism, business, art and photography. You’ll benefit from familiarizing yourself with different programs within the Adobe Suite especially, such as Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. Since these programs can be pricey to purchase for yourself, find out if your school’s computer lab has any of these programs available for you to use or if you can get a student version for much less expense.

Group shot of students working on laptops

Digital design is a broad field, so it would be wise to start narrowing down your specific areas of interest once college is on the horizon. Then, make sure you choose a college that offers a program that allows you to concentrate on the area that interests you most. Ask questions as you explore prospective schools. Does the school’s digital design program lean heavily on principles of computer science, or does it focus more on the creative and artistic sides of design? What opportunities for practical experience does the college offer? Will you be able to work with the latest equipment and software? Will you develop a portfolio? How will the college support you in finding an internship? Where have graduates of the program found work? When it comes to digital design, you can never have too much experience. Make sure to pick a school that sets you up for success.

Check out this UNCF-Member University

As you begin to search different colleges where you can study digital design, make sure to take a look at Claflin University, a UNCF-member HBCU that offers an outstanding major in the discipline. Housed in the college’s art department, Claflin’s bachelor of arts degree in digital design is one of the newest majors at the school. Computer labs feature state-of-the-art technology, including software for 2-D, 3-D, interactive and animated works. As part of the program, students develop their work from sketchbook to a virtual design in a variety of computer graphics programs.

Claflin University visionary logo

Like any quality design program, Claflin makes portfolio-building a key focus. Students have the opportunity to show their work at annual art exhibitions and to participate in conferences. Students are encouraged to participate in research, study abroad programs, and a variety of student clubs and organizations on campus, including the Claflin Department of Art’s own Art Club.

Scholarships and Programs

The UNCF General Scholarship Awards, the HBCU Alliance Partners Scholarship Program and the Renee Starks Steed Memorial Scholarship are always worth checking out for students interested in any discipline. The Target Scholars Program is available for enrolling freshmen planning to attend an HBCU with an interest in design or technology. And, for artistically-minded individuals like you, The Stella Jones and John Scott Endowed Art Scholarship Fund is an excellent opportunity. It’s available to students enrolled full-time in arts, fine arts, graphic art, visual art at either Dillard University, Xavier University of Louisiana, or Southern University at New Orleans.

If you know you’re interested in digital design, you’ve already made great progress toward finding a college major and a career that you love. Filling out our major interest form is the next step. We’ll equip you with resources and with advice from professionals who know our HBCUs inside and out. Then, follow us on UNCF social media, where we provide ongoing updates and information about our scholarships and our member HBCUs. Spending your life doing something you love is totally possible. We can help you get there!