Forget Photoshop, CSS and HTML! Do You Really Understand Web Design?

Posted on June 8, 2012 by

Does learning design software, CSS and HTML make you a designer? If you are a self-taught designer, then you should explore this idea. While you may be fully proficient with Photoshop, you could lack fundamental web design training that might otherwise drastically help you in your career. As an amateur web designer, you’ve probably often heard that design is much more than design software, such as Photoshop. Currently, in field of design, there are millions of home grown designers who are mostly self-taught. However, there is a significant amount of confusion among them when it comes to what they should be learning.

This idea may hit home when you visit the nearest bookstore, it may have been ages since you find a good design book and you want to end the streak. You wind up in the “Graphic Design” or “Computer” section of the store and you find some solid material, but interesting enough as you dig around for a good ten minutes, you only find very few books that fully explains about design techniques as the section could be composed almost entire on Photoshop, Dreamweaver, CSS and other technical stuff. Modern web design is a large area of discipline, but the core concepts are increasingly being ignored. One relatively untouched area of web design is art. As a web designer, you should understand and appreciate art. Learn how artists create structured and very balanced compositions, while striving for cleaner artworks.

Of course, you don’t need to learn how to sculpt, draw or paint. Photoshop is a complex digital version of canvas, brushes and paints, but many design books only teach you how to use it, not how to create a masterpiece with it. You may know how to create shadows or guides, but do you know how to use them to create a perfect composition? You know the keyboard shortcut for applying background fill color, but do you know how to choose color combinations that complement each other nicely?

So, what’s web design? Web design is math, how do you use ratio? Web design is psychology, will a blue or red button trigger more clicks? Web design is marketing, how do you sell a product, service or idea? Web design is art, which color scheme offers better visual appeal? When you’re working on a website, you should drive home the idea that web design is a huge area with many facets. Unfortunately, we rely too much on subconscious mind when building a design. We intuitively apply design concepts without really thinking them through. When we see a good design, we immediately understand it, but unfortunately we don’t have the fundamentals of what sets a good design from the bad.

The big question in this article is: Do you really understand web design? If you are a self-taught web designer, you don’t simply learn Photoshop, HTML and CSS and start charging people for you web design service. If you make a living providing web design service, then obviously you are doing something right, so why waste your valuable time trying to understand the core concepts of web design. Don’t worry; it’s really worth your time.

For starters, gaining explicit knowledge about web design can make you a better designer, even if you are already an experienced professional. This could be a thoroughly refreshing task as you can view web design from a different perspective. Because this involves basic concept, you should be able to grasp it easily. Further, if you’re a self-taught professional, learning about web design at its core can help you to achieve good design more often and faster.

Since most bookstores and libraries are a bust when it comes to providing your core design concept, where do you turn to? A classroom is your best bet, even experienced self-taught professionals should consider attending a course in community colleges and universities as they are often lectured by experienced designers who can genuinely teach anyone the trade. Many of the lessons offered by the course give you the chance to review your own understanding and skill sets. Much of your knowledge could be derived from experience and this is a chance to confirm it.

However, a web design course may not be a desirable option for many professionals. UX (user experience) blogs is yet another niche of web design and they can help you dig deeper into important design concepts instead of providing tutorials on design software or web programming language. UX experts spend most of their time solving design-related issues and really push the idea of delivering solid user experience through goal-focused work process.

Many self-taught web design professionals over-educate themselves in every practical and technical skill at the expense of learning the core concepts of web design. Every designer, both college-educated and self-taught can benefit from weekly dose of discussion on good old design concepts with their peers. Try to step away completely from design software and web programming language and focus more on problem solving as well as mental and visual constructs.

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