About a year ago I was faced with one of the most important decisions I would make as a designer. I was a couple years into my career and could confidently find my way around both sides of a sheet of paper. I had a pinky toe in the web pool helping with wireframes or eblasts every once in a while. I didn’t know a ton about how websites were built so I quickly decided I was probably not destined for internet greatness.
And then a truly life-changing moment came. I received an official invitation from my talented coworkers to leave my comfort zone in print work and move toward web design. I had a moment of hesitation. Leave the nest I had made with my color swatches and paper samples? Work in RGB? Plus, these guys had more than a few years on me working in the digital space. I didn’t grow up taking computers apart or hacking around the web. From the conversations I overheard in the office, I didn’t think I’d ever understand what they were talking about. The idea of starting down a new road — one with code — was daunting. But when a web team as talented as ours reaches out a hand you just don’t pass it up. And let’s face it, as a designer it’s only going to be more important to have digital experience. I’d like to share a few of the factors that went into my final decision, which wasn’t an easy one, and how I’ve made the transition.
I prefer a fast-paced environment. I picked the right industry when I went into advertising, but web and digital kicked it up a notch. There are some days I feel like I’ll never catch up. But every line of code I write, blog post I comprehend and conversation I’m able to contribute to makes it all worth it. The feeling of creating and then building is unbeatable.
When I moved over to the digital team I realized I was gaining something I had greatly missed which was handcrafting something. I know that sounds counter-intuitive when referring to digital design, but the great thing about websites is you get to build them. Every pixel placed serves a greater functional purpose. Strategy goes behind every line drawn, text typed and photo placed. And there is always the user to think about: the person who will be interacting with your website and counting on you to deliver the information they need in the most useful and visually appealing way possible.
Lastly, I was always very interested in web design. I was just afraid of it. It still gets pretty scary sometimes in my code editor. It’s a lot of googling, experimenting, saving, refreshing and repeating to see what sticks. But with a strong design background and some serious self-practice and patience, the heavy curtain will start to draw back. I found there are endless resources to help along the way. I am very lucky to have some of the best mentors in the region to help me along. But every day something comes up and I need some help, so here are some of my go-tos that really helped me build up skills and confidence:
Tutorials (Run the drills and build the skills):
Inspiration (Look at the best, but don’t copy)
- Dribbble.com — Looking at great work always inspires me to push my designs further.
- Sidebar — This newsletter sends you the 5 best web design and front-end development articles from the day. Just read as much as you can and the clouds will begin to part.
- Skillcrush — This one is geared toward the ladies but they give a ton of encouragement and direct you to more resources.
My parting words for anyone waiting for that push to do the full-on, deep-end, web-design swan dive (or, more accurately, cannonball): You’re going to be frustrated. You’re going to feel like a dummy. You’re also going to be amazed with your own abilities and the community of people near and far who will help and support you along the way. Be patient and be kind to yourself. It’s worth it.
Contributors: Rob Gaedtke, Kevin Jones, and Steve James