What is Digital Media Anyway?

Author: Bill Fischer
professor of Digital Media, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University.

Images: Student of Kendall's Digital Media program: Ashlee Varekois, Gabby Aleman-Gordon, Angie Hauch, Angela Tidball, Roz Heidtke, Travis Martin

 What is Digital Media Anyway? 

Digital Media, ten years ago, was a term that felt new and shiny. Something that spoke to the future. Well, the future is now and the term has lost a little bit of its 'newness'. The media world is smack in the middle of a massive transition from traditional delivery systems like printed paper, broadcast television, postal delivery and airwave radio to new systems like game boxes, web browsers, phones and tablets. Illustration and Graphic Design production processes have already transitioned to all (or mostly) digital workflows. And, once media hits the digital fat pipe, it's easy to make it animated, noisy and interactive. Things most traditional media doesn't do very well. All this is being driven by efficiencies in both the cost of production and the cost of delivery as well as the increased "richness" of the user experience.

But let's get down to some nuts and bolts. I'm going to talk about opportunities in Digital Media in two categories: Industries and Schools.


On the delivery side: If you perform an on-line job search and type in the term 'digital media' you will get a list of companies looking for buyers. These are people who specialize in purchasing services for media companies that can include web hosting, digital broadcast bandwidth, on-line advertising, email marketing and search engine optimization as well as interactive, animation and video design/production. Persons hired for these jobs typically have education and experience in advertising, marketing or communications.
On the production side: on-line job search terms like interactive, animation, CG, audio, illustration, animation, production art, concept art and game design will yield results showing companies looking for creatives that can produce the kinds of 'rich media' experiences that can be found, not only in the new digital delivery systems, but also in traditional ones like television and film.


Since I am in the business of Art and Design, I'm going to talk about schools that offer that component. The challenge facing every educational institution is this: how do you teach students the skills to work in the new digital production world while continuing to offer the traditional techniques that have been integral to curriculums for decades. Most institutions, whether high school or college, have added departments and programs to teach digital media as opposed to trying to integrate it into existing ones. This has made for a plethora of new names for the new programs like: 'New Media', 'Digital Media', 'Computer Arts', 'Entertainment Design', 'Media Arts', CG Graphics, Game Design, etcetera, etcetera. At the high school level, these have typically been added at technical centers. In higher education, they have proliferated in professional art and design schools as well as community colleges. Very recently, however, high schools, middle schools and universities have been sticking their toes into the water as well. But, they are getting a late start in a fast moving race.

To learn more about finding art and design schools that offer programs in digital media, check out my post on the subject called (what else) "Digital Media Colleges"

 Take Aways: 
  • Digital delivery of news, entertainment, editorial and informational media continues in an upward trajectory.
  • Digital production processes are now the norm in nearly all media creation and include: Illustration and Imaging, Video and film , 2D and 3D Modeling and Animation, Graphic/Interactive Design
  • Schools that are leading the way include high school technical centers as well as professional art and design colleges.