Interview with a Web Designer
Interviewee: Dustin Hunter
Job Title: Web Designer, Self-employed
Years in Business: Over 10 years
How did you get into a career as a web designer?
I've been doing web design for 10 years but I've been involved in graphic design and drawing forever. I didn't know about computers until my mother opened a computer store. She needed a web site, so I sat down and figured out how to do web site design. From there, I started picking up little jobs and started my own business this year.
What do you most enjoy about designing web sites?
I really enjoy the illustration work. Not so much the programming end, but the actual creative process of coming up with a layout, sketching out ideas. Most people don't know exactly what they want, they know what they want the site to do, but as far as layout goes, I'm free to do anything.
How do you work with clients?
I ask questions about what they want from the site: Do they want a one-page brochure? Who is their target audience? I try to get an idea about who I'm creating the site for. I work intuitively, because I want the finished project to reflect the person's or the company's personality, their aesthetics. Then I want to find the balance between that and what will look good to everybody else.
When you talk to people you pick up on things about them, how they're dressed, their mannerisms, that give you clues about what they might like as far as design goes. When I work with clients on the phone, I'll say "Describe yourself to me." Which gives me an idea of whether they'll want something that's modern, or sometime that's more Better Homes and Gardens. My clients like the sites when they're done. What I hear the most is, "I don't know how you were able to read my mind."
What's the most challenging part of being a web designer?
It's difficult when the client has a very specific way that they want something to look, but they can't describe it. The most dreaded words a designer can hear are, "I can't draw, but I have an image in my brain." I'm currently working on a site for a client who wants it to have a Seattle World's Fair Jetsons-1950s-1960s-look. It requires a lot of research. Actually the more frustrating the job, the happier I am when it's done because I've risen to the challenge.
What does a person interested in a career need to know?
Web designers all work differently. Some use complex scripts and programming languages, but all designers must have knowledge of HTML and graphic design software. Anyone who is interested in becoming a web designer should take a college course in HTML. Learning it is not as hard as it seems. It's about setting aside the time to sit and play with it for a weekend. Web design software programs now are as easy as using Word or Powerpoint – it's not about looking at code. I've used Photoshop for years, and I treat it as a piece of paper.