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But what I can't do is "design".
I'm a programmer. A techie. A nerd. And as a breed we are not well known for our artistic flair. All my designs tend to look a bit boring or are just thinly disguised rip-offs of another page.
So, question: "Given that I am creatively-disadvantaged, could I still make a career out of developing web pages for people?"
I've done contract work in the past, but I had a third party handle the 'arty' design bit for me, while I concentrated on dealing with the clients, organising the site and the actual nitty-gritty of coding.
1. What it produces
2. How it looks
Okay, you admitted you have a problem with 2. So why not concentrate on 1 and the SEO. Outsource 2 if you really want, but personally I think the real money and business edge is with SEO.
How the database works, how well it is coded, whether you used PHP, ASP, Perl or something else really doesn't matter to the client.
Does it work (i.e. produce) and does it reflect a good image is really of primary concern to them.
An alternative choice would be to hook up with a company that needs good programming talent and will shield you from the "creative" element. That decision depends upon whether you want to "go it alone" or share the rewards of working in a team.
Given that I am creatively-disadvantaged, could I still make a career out of developing web pages for people?
I don't see why not. I think that most of us here have some skill at both the programming side and the design side of things. I guess some people lean more toward one than the other, but that's OK.
I come from an graphic design background myself, but have really got into the coding side of things because it gives me so much satisfaction - far more than I would get just making a 'pretty' page.
Maybe it's worth having a go at doing some creative stuff and see how you get on? Being a hippy type I believe that everyone has the potential for creativity, whether they realise it or not. Also, many graphic design skills can be learnt, people are not born with them necessarily. When I was a design student I used to read magazines like 'eye' (don't know if it's still about) which had some very informative articles about design theory.
But what I can't do is "design".
Well I'm the exact opposite to you, I'm a designer. So I teamed up with someone just like you and together we create beautiful stuff ;-)
Unless you absolutely want to do everything on your own, I would team up with someone else. The end result will be far better if you play to your strengths and get help with your weaknesses.
Maybe it's worth having a go at doing some creative stuff and see how you get on? Being a hippy type I believe that everyone has the potential for creativity, whether they realise it or not.
Absolutely correct. I think the problem is that ability gets "educated" out of us at a young age. Every child is creative and inventive. It's that child-like thought that needs to be tapped into to be creative.
Then, as Helen says, the theories and methods of getting ideas onto paper/screen can be learned.
At work we have a guy that can do all the arty farty stuff with Dream weaver I then take that code and transfer it into the JSP's and place all the logic into it. It Works! Having him as my design eyes I can get on with the more nerdy stuff. My job is therefore in-between a UI designer and a developer. And there is a need for people like us...
Can anyone recommend some good books (or preferably web sites) that deal with artistic design for web sites?
Most of the websites on this subject are either rubbish or deal mostly with code and CSS which you don't need.
I would go to paper - it's been around longer and the quality is so much higher.
There are some excellent books on design - just hit the local library. Also, look at a few books which show design by example - a lot of the best stuff I've ever done has been influenced by something I've seen in a book, or a TV commercial. Not other websites (95% of which are horrific!).
First, use templates, and use your skills to clean them up so that they will load faster and fit the needs of your code.
Second, have your client sketch out a rough "design" that they are looking for, then use CSS to create the layout and make the functional changes that are needed for usability and "common sense".
Believe it or not, I think you can actually learn how to design while working as a developer...
Now if they would just add partial opacities to CSS and curves and other shapes to <div>s I would definately be trying to make a career move!
Can anyone recommend some good books
Not books, but topics you may want to look at.
Typography - for me. the mainstay of graphic design, for us (WW) a very rarely talked about subject? Which is confusing. We spend a great deal of time dealing with type, and typographic hierarchy with no real knowledge of the art and science behind it. There is excellent reading on the topic - University libraries with art dep's are a good resource if you have access.
Colour Theory - Why do some colours work together? Why do some not? What are the cultural associations with colours? And how do different users perceive them? Colours can superbly enhance content or remove its stickiness altogether - I am very particular myself and find that a bad colour scheme triggers my 'back' response as quickly as blink tags! But a good scheme makes the 'inspired design' folder in my favourites.
Composition - A good understanding of composition is an excellent tool for creating that wholesome 'professional' layout. Cramped and claustrophobic designs are visually hard to navigate, ones with too much white space look incomplete or lacking – but why? It’s composition – interesting layouts use a variety of composite features and blend them so they marry one another without causing conflict.
Art History - OK this may seem a bit over the top. But to understand why a painting or sculpture or any piece of artwork is successful, is an incredible asset to have. Then you can apply it to web design, whatever facet. We are stood on the shoulders of greats, and these people have shaped us as creative individuals. If you can apply some of their logic and free thinking to your creative processes the design side will be a more soulful and successful project. Also you can apply the same ideas thoughts and rules to more than web design - Thinking about a new wallpaper for the lounge? New paint job for the garden shed? It will amaze you how influential the greats have been.
Those are my tips – there are so many other areas of design to consider but for the web, but a good grounding in these areas will be big help to you. As you can tell I am a bit of a hippy too and feel the same way about the creative process and Helen and TJ – everyone has the capacity for it.
However, I work with my brother, who is a very talented graphic designer. When we want to create a new design, he normally starts out making a mock-up in PhotoShop. I point out little "tweaks" and things as we go along, that will help me do a neat, lean job in the markup and styling.
When we started this about a year ago, he came strictly from a print-design mindeset. The result was that I wound up having to use way too many graphics, table designs, image maps, and other such undesirables.
However, over the course of time, he came to understand what I'm able to do and what kinds of design techniques are available to me without resorting to the above-named methods. Now, when we're designing a new website, he's able to throw together a design that does a fantastic job of combining his artistic flair with my technical abilities, without sacrificing one way or the other. In fact he's putting together a really slick design right now that it looks like I'll be able to bring in the page for about 4-6kb of HTML, maybe 2kb of CSS, and about 10kb images, using CSS for layout and achieving an extremely high text-to-code ratio. Not bad for a page that looks like it was designed for print, but is fluid for the web and will work on all web-enabled devices!
All this to say, it seems to work well for those of us who aren't too skilled in design, to work with a professional designer who can come up with the creative ideas. The caution is that it does take a learning curve on the part of the designer, to learn what kinds of designs he can come up with that are suitable for the web (most of them start by wanting a webpage to look like a magazine page). It also requires the webmaster to know how to describe to the designer why such-and-such a design won't work, but this-and-that will, etc.
My first graphics were large words in pale gray with a dark blue line underneath them. (ie. talentless and awful!)
The Robin Williams book mentioned above is a good resource, as is Dmitry's design studio on the web (I forget the URL).
I would go for it, absolutely. As a coder with a grip on functionality, usability, cross-platform compatibility and a little to learn about graphic design, you're in a far more enviable position than a DTP graphic designer who wouldn't know what HTML stood for if it danced on his head singing: "I'm a markup language and I use hypertext, geddit?"
Some of the most effective sites (like that of a major book seller) have little discernable design at all, but they present the information the user wants, and never confuse anyone. The design doesn't get in the way.
And of course what may seem an elegant design to someone from one cultural background, can look awful to someone from a different one. For example to a Westerner a Chinese website can look completely over the top. Busy, busy, busy, with not a square centimeter of empty space.
Sometimes I have writer's block on the design part and that is ok. Most of use do, but I usually come back to it with fresh ideas.
When you code and the program works, that is it. It works. There are no gray areas and no opinions to get. You know it works. But designing? Well, that can be a gray area and some times I get into ruts. Perfectly normal to me.
In 1984 I discovered computers. First I transferred hundreds of thousands of words into WordPerfect (the DOS version); while doing this, I found DOS batch files and WordPerfect macros - simple programming. And that caused me to wonder, "what if?" and "what ELSE can I do with this?" So I added learning simple programming to my other stuff - including computer RPGs, which are still a major escape for me....
In the years since, I've managed to keep hold of creativity while implementing the "other brain" - I'm not a programmer by any means (the major languages are ALL Greek to me!), but I can still write a more-than-decent batch file, WP or AS400 macro, and have branched out into CSS, html, php, etc.
I think you CAN do it all. It's a matter of reframing your attitudes: if you think you CAN'T design, you won't be able to. I never once approached (nor do I to this day) something new on the scene with the attitude that I don't know how to do it, so I CANNOT do it.
A friend of mine took some classes in retraining the mind to access both right and left brain schema. She's doing very well now with design (was her problem too), as well as programming (and SHE does know major languages - made a TON of money when "antique languages" became a big hook about Y2K....)
Most art teachers in school upto age eleven have no talent at all as its not considered important as a subject ..
So only those of us who are hyper talented don't get put off ....
You can still do it reasonablly well tho ..
Just need to change where you're coming from..
Same thing with maths ....
I'm always amazed at how many people think algebra is complex based purely on having been badly taught when they were 10 years old .....
If 5 people were given the same education in design you would still get 5 levels of varying quality. Education can only take you so far, raw skill will take you all the way.
Do you really think that michangelo or van goth got there because they were taught well? Or if some other people had the same experience they would be just as good?
You are either born with it or not - accept what you can do and improve that and use someone else for the rest
Do you really think that michangelo or van goth got there because they were taught well?
"michangelo" and "van goth"? I have no idea who those people are... :)
Perhaps you meant Michelangelo Buonarroti (who was taught by Ghirlandaio and then Bertoldo di Giovanni) and Vincent Van Gogh (who began by copying Millet and was helped by Pissarro)?
Clearly "education can only take you so far.."
To be serious though, there seems to be an interesting range of responses to this question. Personally I feel that everyone has some degree of talent. Some have more than others and some are "well nurtured".
However I'm not looking to paint the Cistine Chapel, I'd just like to be able to put a website together that is as aesthetically pleasing as it is technically competent.
To this end I think a bit of education can definitely help, so I'm going to dig out some of the references mentioned above and get to work 'improving' myself - that Robin Williams book sounds particularly useful to me.
Not only that, you can make your website as simple/complex as you like, AND you can do it yourself - unlike coding something enormous like an OS that would require many layers of complexity and many heads to inplement
vkaryl, I must heftily disagree with you... :o)
Believe me, when I try to design something, or create something new on paper or whatever medium, it will look too amatueristic for words. I simply don't have a creative mind.
*laughing* So you're saying that because I started out on the creative side, anything I've learned about the programming side must therefore be amateurish?
I think each person should do hisser best to enable BOTH sides of hisser nature. NO ONE should believe that heesh cannot create simply because heesh is primarily so far in hisser life a "programmer" (insert "mathematician" or "scientist" or "brain surgeon" or whatever....)
In fact, "amateurish" is as much in the eye of the beholder as is anything else. I've been to a multitude of sites purportedly created by "designers" which simply suck rocks through a straw (to quote a Texan friend of mine). And I've been to no doubt an equal number of sites whose implementor is a code-jock instead of an artist, and which exemplify "usable AND attractive".
USABLE is the point. ATTRACTIVE is gravy.
[This is a personal opinion ONLY; your opinion may and quite probably WILL vary.]
So you're saying that because I started out on the creative side, anything I've learned about the programming side must therefore be amateurish?
Not at all, if you're lucky enough to be talented in both fields...
I just think of a guy I was in highschool with, he simply couldn't pronounce english properly to save his life (I'm dutch, BTW). He was, on the other hand, extremely talented in science and math.
Some people simply have it, some people don't.
When it comes to solving problems I can be extremely creative, when it comes to designing a nice logo, I suck *** big time.