Robert Leeper <- Thoughts

Advice on how to become a web designer

I get a lot of people asking me how I got started in web design. They often follow up by asking how they could get into web design, too. I don’t know if I can answer that fully without writing a book, but I can cover the basics.

1. Learn to design.

Ground-breaking, I know. But seriously, learn design. Learn the fundamentals. It isn’t glamorous, and it isn’t always fun. Honestly, learning the basics of design can be about as much fun as hitting your thumb with a hammer at times, but it’s a must. An article on Fuel Your Creativity, “The Lost Principles of Design”, isn’t a bad place to start.

Once you’ve learned the basics, start experimenting with how to bend and break the rules. Many interesting designs come from breaking the rules, but without knowing which rules to break, you’ll be handicapped from the get-go.

2. Learn to code.

Start with HTML and work up from there. Once you have the basics of HTML down, start working with CSS. Once you have that, get going on JavaScript.

There is a ton of tech that powers the internet but it all comes back down the pipes as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Without those three, you're going to be at a disadvantage.

3. Invite and accept criticism.

Probably the most valuable part about attending a design school or class, is learning how to invite and accept criticism. Harsh criticism. The internet shares a trait to a design class in that there is no shortage of criticism for what you make. Everyone can see what you make, everyone has an opinion, and people on the internet are less inclined to hold back because they don’t have to look you in the eye when they gripe. This can be a good thing.

Welcome criticism. Without hearing from your peers, you won’t learn what you’re doing right or wrong. Invite people to look at your work and let you know what they think. Many will have constructive feedback and be instrumental in helping you grow in your skills. When you ask for their opinion, ask about specifics. What about the colors don’t you like? Where do you think this should have gone?

In my last post, “Web designers: are your clients really dumb?”, I mentioned that it is important to listen. The same advice applies here, except you can replace the word “clients” with “critics”.

4. Light a fire.

Probably the single most important of all the advice I can give you is to get excited! Passion commands a following, and your first follower will be you. If you are interested, you will find a way. If you are excited, you will find a way to stick with it.

More good advice for down the road:

Still have questions? Think I missed something too important to let slide? Let me know, I’d love some feedback or, dare I say, criticism.