Back when I was in art school, designers chose between a print path — full of page layout, printing production processes, and dpi, or a web path — full of screen layout, HTML, and pixels. There was very little intermingling.
Those days are gone. The medium is no longer the message. For lack of better term, the message is the message, and we as designers have very little control over which medium our message will be consumed on.
So, modern designers need to:
a) Be curious, courageous, creative, resourceful, problem solvers. Every designer needs to have a solid understanding of the fundamentals. Concepting, color theory, typography, layout, hierarchies, Piet Mondrian, pixel perfection. All of it. We should also be able to design within boundaries. In school a typical assignment could take any direction and had no budget limitations. Designing in the real world comes with many parameters, and innovation within established systems is a cherished skill.
b) Have a user experience mindset, and design for interaction. I don’t just mean digital or web design. This involves creating usable communications that work as a customer interacts with any and all touch points. The messaging on your print ad needs to be work not only in print, but online, in video, at events, anywhere a customer may see it.
c) Have an understanding of marketing and business in general, to be able to put some strategy behind communications and impact business development. Imagine being asked to design a landing page that acts as a minimum viable product to try to establish product/market fit? Or to create ads that can be split-tested against each other to minimize cost per lead? Some business and marketing acumen would serve you well in situations like this.
d) Embrace Agile project management methodologies. Liquid Agency did a fantastic write up speaking to this — modern designers need to not only manage their (multiple) projects, but they have to be able to pivot and create new iterations on a dime. It takes a lot of transparency with the client, a dash of humility, and is not for the faint of heart, but it allows you to create better, faster.
So there you have it, the message is the message. Design for that message to be seen anywhere, on any screen, on a blimp, on the wall of a tennis court behind Roger Federer, on a kiosk, on a polo shirt, embossed in a giant chocolate bar, on a sign in the subway, carved in a tree, or on the back of a pair of exercise pants.
It’s a big job.