Career: Digital Artist
A digital artist makes art using the computer as his or her primary tool. This art can be
intended for a CD-ROM, video game, or website; but almost as often, it is printed out and
hung on a wall.
Individuals who crave stability, please note: Change in this field is constant. Whether you’re
an illustrator, graphic designer, animator, or game designer, the software you use is constantly
evolving. Depending on the company they work for, digital artists may wear many different hats
and contribute to five or six projects at one time. Most of
their day is spent developing an interface for a project,
drawing pictures, assembling the art, and making buttons
for users to click on. “The work atmosphere is like a
big clubhouse, and we can easily be there until midnight or two in the morning, particularly
when working on a deadline. We easily can put in a 12-hour day, and 10-hour days are the average.
That’s because we’re in the hot seat and clients want things yesterday,” says one artist at a
A general art education is a good first step, especially for networking, as so much of this
industry involves working with creative people in other fields. While a job with a print magazine
was once the best way to break into commercial art, the Internet now allows young
artists to land jobs as a junior/assistant designer, website designer, art director, illustrator, animator,
or game designer. Today there aren’t any steadfast rules or traditional channels to paying
your dues. You may be relegated to the toilet paper account as a junior art director at an
ad agency, but if you’re stuck in the same role at an interactive agency, you can make the toilet
paper talk, dance, and sing. You’re not going to be making complicated video games in the
beginning. There is much to learn about how to manipulate the software; it takes time to be
able to grasp the intricacies of its usability and understand a language that’s not totally developed.
If you can say that you are not only an illustrator and graphic designer, but also know
typography, understand color and page layout, and know how to optimize graphics for use
on the Web, you will be an extremely valuable commodity. Right now, the demand for creative
talent is immense, largely because the Internet is comprised of a world of technicians and
engineers, and the people who start companies and develop software generally don’t have an
understanding of how to create art.
Because every project involves teamwork, communication is as important as artistic
skills. In Web companies where technology often breaks inexplicably (particularly around a
deadline), being calm, practical, and logical is an asset. While creativity and imagination are
the most important attributes, understanding what makes things work and an analytical ability
to think like a programmer is often very helpful. In the Internet arena, an artist’s unbridled
creativity should be balanced with logic and analytical skills.
A talented artist is infinitely marketable; he or she can work in virtually any field. An
illustrator may work on storyboards for movies or music videos, for example; an animator
could move from the Internet into film. While a graphic designer can’t jump to industrial
design without further training, one could make the transition to packaging design. In
school, you generally choose a particular field of design, and unique training is provided for
each field. In graphic design, on which Web design is based, you could also make the leap to
book or advertising design.