Ultimate Guide to Digital Design in South Africa

Downtown Digital has the Ultimate Guide to Digital Design & the role of a Digital designer!

Ultimate Guide to Digital Design in South Africa by Downtown Digital

Digital design is an exciting field, and good creatives are sought after for their ability to bring content to life in an online world saturated with branded content. 

Digital designers with strong creative and branding backgrounds can help transform the way in which brands communicate their value.

Let’s define digital design further and learn more about the role of a designer in a freelance or agency setting.

What is Digital Design by Downtown Digital

Digital Design Descripition

What is digital design?

Digital Design is generally defined as communicating via the integration of multiple forms of digital media. 

As covered briefly above, design is an umbrella term for a variety of techniques and applications used in various types of design to create content, physical or digital. 

Digital design requires creative and technical skills to integrate multiple forms of media. In the modern world, digital design is most prevalent online, in the form of engaging videos, animations, illustrations, photography and more. 

What does a Digital Designer do?

A digital designer has an arsenal of skills – which can be more extensive or limited depending on the designer’s niche or experience. 

Some of the most common skills present in the digital design field include graphic design, UX/UI Design, motion design, animation, video editing, audio design, photography, illustration, and photo editing. 

A digital designer has no limits, and can choose to become as specialised or as diversify their skill set as much as they desire. 

Digital designers can be self taught, although it is more common for a digital designer to have a more formal training background in some form of design, usually graphic design, multimedia design, videography, or illustration. 

Modern creatives/designers are lifelong learners and will continue to expand or improve upon a particular selection of skills over the course of their careers. 

What are the various types of digital design?

There are core design disciplines as well as techniques and approaches that overlap in digital design. 

Below, we’ll dive into the most well known forms of digital design and what they entail, plus we’ll cover some of the softwares used by designers in different creative disciplines and for online, outdoor and other physical applications.

Graphic Design and Visual Communication

Having a good artistic direction and understanding of design principles is the right foundation for any graphic designer or visual communicator. 

A lot of digital designers start off mastering this skillset as it is widely taught, it provides learners with a solid creative skillset, and it is sought after in many markets. 

Graphic design and visual communication design can provide future digital designers with the ability to grow their creative direction, attention to detail, understanding of industry trends and standards, and their technical skill set. 

Graphic designers use a wide variety of techniques to brainstorm and refine ideas, and execute creative content production. A wide range of softwares are normally used, by a few of the industry standard applications include members of the versatile Adobe Suite. 

Graphic Design Software:

Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe InDesign are the three most commonly used softwares by graphic designers. 

Adobe illustrator allows you to manipulate and craft vectors. It is most commonly used to design logos, icons and illustrations, but it can also be used for basic animations and to create forms of digital art. 

Adobe Photoshop is perhaps the most renowned piece of software in the Adobe Suite. It is primarily used to manipulate photos using a wide range of techniques. It can also be used for forms of digital art and is a strong component of any graphic designer’s arsenal of software. It is also one of the most powerful adobe programs.

Adobe InDesign is used for layout design. It is very nice for typographic design and very commonly used for laying out online and print publications. InDesign can also be used for creating wireframes and can play a key role in refining print designs for packaging applications. 

User Experience Design for websites and apps

User Experience Design refers to the process of supporting user behaviour through interaction with a physical or digital product. 

UX design centres around the usability, usefulness, through usability, usefulness, and user journey taken by users. 

User experience design is such a valuable skill because the digital world is continuing to thrive and expand. 

More and more brands need well designed websites and apps to stay relevant, and meet the needs of the modern consumer. 

UX is a very beneficial skill set to master as it brings many job opportunities. There are many tech startups that seek in house user experience designers, and UX designers can easily command high hourly rates or project fees for projects undertaken on a freelance basis. 

During the UX design process, UX/UI designers are responsible for crafting and refining mockups and prototypes of their products. 

UX Design Software:

Softwares that are the most commonly used by user experience designers for developing websites and apps include Adobe XD, Sketch, WordPress, Shopify, Webflow, Invision, Illustrator, and Avocode. 

Animation for website and social media content

Animated content is in high demand throughout the world. Video content continues to outperform other content distributed by advertisers online.

Animated content is engaging and extremely effective, communicating complex, value driving messages in succinct and exciting ways. 

Animation is a fairly broad grouping for multiple skill sets. 2D animation and 3D animation are very different from one another. 

The same can be said for animated videos for corporate explainers which we can all agree are not the same quality as Disney’s Pixar animations.

Animated content will continue to entertain audiences throughout a wide variety of online platforms, and may be one of the best value for money investments made, with the right marketing strategy. 

Learning the principles of the walk cycle and understanding frame rates is a good place to begin. Dive into the basics of Adobe After Effects (or any other alternative software), it is used by industry professionals in multiple different creative industries.

Animation Software:

Softwares that are the most commonly used softwares by animators include Adobe After Effects and Maxon Cinema 4D.

Video Production

Video content is super relevant in today’s world and editors have been in demand for years and still will be for many to decades to come. 

Traditional media platforms and modern social media platforms allow brands to communicate with their audience with digestible, video content. Video content can deliver a specific message, and create an immersive or tailored experience that resonates with a brand’s core persona.

Videos can bridge the gap and allow brands to build a stronger relationship with new and existing target market segments

Understanding how to edit video opens up many opportunities as a wide range of companies, sole traders, entrepreneurs, musicians, artists and other brands require video content. 

Some video content includes; music videos, product videos, explainer videos, brand manifesto videos, event videos and the list goes on.

Video Production Software:

Softwares that are the most commonly used softwares by animators include Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Adobe After Effects and Sony Vegas

Sound engineering and audio production

Sound is integral to every piece of online content that a brand produces. Understanding sound engineering and audio editing allows you to create an experience through the content you create. 

Audio editing and mastering techniques are used to create songs for distribution on audio platforms, refine videos for social media campaigns, develop movies, podcasts, and voice overs for radio ads and other applications. Sound editing and engineering are valuable skills worth learning.

The basics of EQ, compression and mastering are all important to help you create more valuable content that wins the hearts and minds of all kinds of audiences. 

People are very opinionated when it comes to what software is best for sound editing and production. 

Knowing the basics in audio editing and video editing are a very good building block for any digital designer who is interested in producing films and video content.

Sound Production Software:

Softwares that are the most commonly used softwares by animators include Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Logic Pro, FL Studio, Audacity, Adobe Audition, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Logic Pro, FL Studio, Audacity and Adobe Audition.


Knowing how to take and edit incredible photos are very valuable skills to develop as a digital creative. 

Photography is used by brands to deliver important marketing messages, and photography can form the basis for forms of creative digital content that is used to communicate visually. 

Successful photography skills are essential for the arsenal of the modern designer, as the content you will produce will be wide ranging.

As a digital designer you won’t always be able to source the perfect photo, and developing a photographer’s skill set is ideal for executing brand photography. 

Knowing how to take and edit photos for websites and social media is also a valuable addition to your arsenal.

Photo Editing Software:

Softwares that are the most commonly used softwares by animators include Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

How much does a digital designer cost? by Downtown Digital

How much does a digital designer cost?

How much does a digital designer cost?

Designers and creatives can charge a wide range of hourly fees based on skills, experience and their portfolio, and may also charge on a per-project basis. 

Junior digital designers in South Africa may start off charging between R350-R400 per hour, but this can easily grow to R600-R1000 per hour depending on their capabilities and their track record.

Designers with years of expertise and awards can command high rates that exceed the industry average, and are also extremely valuable to the client they serve.

When searching for a strong digital creative, have a look at their education or training, their current level of expertise, their portfolio, communication and any case studies or testimonials. 

How do you get into digital design?

Digital designers typically start off studying a single creative discipline, coming from branding, graphic design, illustration, photography, videography or visual communication backgrounds. 

Creatives can use self-learning practices to develop their expertise and advance their skills with certificates and courses in the future, whilst other designers may have a degree, diploma, higher certificate and advanced certificates in types of design or areas of visual communication.

How do you become a digital designer by Downtown Digital

How do you become a digital designer?

How do you become a digital designer?

To become a designer, you have to have a creative streak and enjoy working with digital tools, and producing a range of content. 

You can use self-learning practices or seek formal design training, which may result in different paths for budding digital designers. 

For those dipping their toes in the water, YouTube and other free or affordable learning platforms provide insightful content for aspiring designers. 

For example, you can check out The Futur’s YouTube channel for a wide range of helpful content to help benefit creative professionals.

Where can you study digital design in South Africa?

As we’ve mentioned, you can choose to enter digital design by studying a single discipline to start with, and for that you may seek out branding courses, graphic design courses and web design courses, or tools and materials to help you learn illustration, photography, videography and sound editing. 

Digital Design Services by Downtown Digital

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Downtown Digital is passionate about digital design that allows brands to fully express themselves online, through content that captivates audiences and communicates effectively. 

Our designers have formal training and/or a range of expertise to help provide you with amazing design services for a wide range of applications.

We specialise in creating content for social media campaigns, websites, YouTube, live streams and many other applications. Contact us for exciting digital design services!