Web Designers in the Workforce

Learn about careers in web design in this informative profile.

A Web Designer's Perspective

Interviewee: Julie Gau
Job Title: Graphic Web Designer

What drew you to a career in web design?

html code on paper

Web design was a new and growing field while I was studying art and design in college.

It's a medium that allows a designer to communicate to an enormously large populace.

Also, the technological obstacles and creative opportunity in web design meant that I'd always be challenged while learning something new and innovative.

How did you pursue your interests in website design?

I went to Montclair State University and received a BA with a concentration in graphic design. I bought books on web design, did tutorials, checked out seminars and experimented with various web design software programs on top of the required classes and workload.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

You meet interesting people and hear great ideas from individuals wanting a website. So many clients wanting different things, with different goals, in different situations, somehow all come to you with a website as the solution to their problems. It's always a challenge, but if you love it, the challenge is all part of the fun.

What are some challenges you face?

Clients sometimes are not so articulate about what they actually want. It's part of the job to dig information out of people. You might not like what the clients like, whether it's colors, sound, music or just overall style. You have to negotiate with them if you think you have a better idea than they do. Sometimes, it's a painstaking process. So, get ready to really hone your people skills.

You're always battling new developments in technology and changing/updating software programs and because many companies don't always have a need for a full-time position, web designers might have to freelance and build a strong portfolio before they find full-time work. Freelancing jobs usually do not provide health care, benefits or retirement plans, and they are temporary situations. It's a very competitive field and will continue to be so.

Do you have any advice for graduates?

If you're still in school, remember that having a strong base in general art and design is important. Take those standard visual art classes seriously. They provide a strong foundation and the basic rules for any kind of design. A web designer has to understand visual organization and the effects of color and movement. Designing for the web is primarily about sight.

Also, learning about communication and organization will be a great advantage. There's a whole system of information underneath that visual layer that people just click on. You have to understand how people process what they see, the hierarchy of information you're presenting, and the ease and accessibility of usage.

When you get really good at the basics, taking some computer courses will definitely be worthwhile.  Having a strong understanding of computers, hardware, software and coding will allow a web designer to enhance his/her design and be independent from the middlemen of the industry.

Finally, learn how to teach yourself. If you can teach yourself several different methods to make a website, you'll be prepared for all of the clients that need a variety of programming languages and software to complete the job.

What are the "success" definers for web designers?

  • Web designers have to be resourceful. Solutions for websites don't always come easily and are very limited at times. You need to have the patience and the persistence to work toward the solution.
  • Procrastinators are looked down upon. Companies are always looking for clever, creative self-starters that can follow deadlines, handle the rush, and publish clean, easy-to-use websites that need little maintenance and have style that will last.
  • Project management skills also help, because a web designer usually requires information from various parties (text, images, demographic statistics, legal requirements, etc.). To deal with bosses, clients, project participants, writers, partners or anybody, you'll need great communication and people skills.
  • You must have a good eye for overall style and the little details.
  • It also helps to be open to learning and taking constructive criticism. New methods, programs and technology will always be changing. You'll always have to keep up-to-date and stay fresh.
  • Most importantly, you need to have a drive to do web design. It's not easy and it isn't always fun, but it's worse if you don't actually have any passion or interest in it. Then, you're just stuck with a job and not a career.