In this weekly installment we talk about roles of the creative industry--not to single out any particular professional creative, but to shed some light on the many different types of creative roles out there. Some of the roles we review will be very familiar, while others that may seem obscure, still play a vital role in our communication needs every day. From time to time, we will get firsthand information from various people from their respective creative roles.
Today's spotlight creative role will cover some of the ins and outs of the web designer.
Most people have a general idea about what a web designer does, but not many know how they came to be and what they do specifically. Early web design goes back to 1993, when the Mosaic browser was introduced. This browser was one of the first that was capable of rendering text and graphics, albeit in a very limited arrangement. The following year Netscape Navigator was released, followed by Microsoft's Internet Explorer. With multiple browsers in the wild, the first browser war was born. Over the next 19 years, companies, including Apple, Opera, and Mozilla, joined in the fray to create the selection we have now.
As browsers improved and bandwidth increased, websites became driven by multimedia content in contrast to plain text and hyperlinks from its infant years. Designers could use tables and, eventually, Cascading Style Sheets or CSS to build and distribute sites. As the web expanded, so did the demand for websites, which blossomed into the web design industry.
Web design doesn't have hundreds of years of history like more traditional art or even print design, but it does pull from these mediums as a model for layout, color theory, and other practices. What it does have that sets it apart from the more storied arts is the interactive element. When a web designer is commissioned to design a site, they are not simply arranging pretty pictures. They are trying to solve a problem through visual communication and the way a customer or consumer will interface with the solution. In other words, the elements on a website are put in specific places for specific reasons. Various decisions about color choices, font sizes, and perceived user interaction, are all taken into consideration. Web design could even be broken down into further categories: for example, user interface design versus user experience design. Each aspect of the profession warrants an entire post in itself.
There was a time when a web designer and a web developer were completely separate roles, and in some cases that may still be true, but as technology has changed and the web matured, that line continues to blur.
On occasion, we get the chance to interview someone who makes a living in our spotlight role. Today we talk with Jenny Messerly.
How did you get started in web design?
I began as a print designer who knew enough about the web to be dangerous. I quickly got bored of a static page and would jump on any interactive project I could get my hands on. Most of the time I had no idea what I was doing, but a lot of patience and a little Google got me through it. You have to start somewhere, right?
What type of projects do you typically involve yourself in?
I like to involve myself in projects where I'm trusted and the client/employer appreciates quality work. Technology requires some education and design is subjective, so mixing the two can be a doozy! If it involves food, that's even better.
What are your day to day projects?
Right now I work on making one really big site really awesome. To do that I have to create user-flows to understand how a visitor will pass through the site, design web page layouts, forms and buttons and write markup to implement the design.
What are your thoughts about the Phoenix web design community?
I feel like the Phoenix design community is growing very strong, but the web design community is still very scarce. Is it because traditional designers are afraid of the dynamic unknown world of the web or their passion just simply isn't designing for the web?
Where would you like to see the Phoenix web community head?
I'd like to see the Phoenix web community hold a conference focused on UI design, usability, interactive strategy and new technologies. For me, these types of events are always inspiring, give the community focus and create relationships between designers.
Jenny is UI Designer and Developer located in Scottsdale.
You can view her work at jennymesserly.com
So there you have it, a brief intro into the life of a web designer. Meet Your Creative is an on going showcase of the various avenues of design and creative thinking, let us know if there's a creative role that you would like to learn more about.