As web designers, we all want to create beautiful websites that get noticed. We want our designs to look great and stand out from among the rest. So how do we get the experience and the skills needed to create amazing designs? In this article, we will let you in on a little secret that can greatly impact your path to becoming a great designer.
To find a career to which you are adapted by nature, and then to work hard at it, is about as near to a formula for success and happiness as the world provides.
One of the fortunate aspects of this formula is that, granted the right career has been found, the hard work takes care of itself. Then hard work is not hard work at all.
– Mark Sullivan
I read these lines some time ago while surfing on the web, but since then they have been a great source of inspiration for me.
Hi! My name is Davy Kestens, a college student and freelance creative director by profession. At the moment, my focus is set at creating online businesses. I often hear people calling me crazy (I can live with that), original (Aah, I love it), and an absolute Mac-loving maniac with a smile… I just like to call myself an open-minded guy who loves to travel.
Starting Out as a Web Designer
When we start our career as web designers, we are taught certain principles such as:
- Design shall provide ease of navigation.
- The design should have optimum balance between whitespace and content.
- Text should have good readability.
- The colors and graphics used on websites shall be an optimum blend and should highlight the most important elements.
- Design shall be fresh and pleasing to the eyes.
- The design shall not be too containerized and the page must flow from top to bottom in a smooth fashion.
- Images shall be smooth and soft rather than being in deep contrast.
- Align your design with client needs, because he is your livelihood.
- Know your tools – Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, etc.
- The list goes on…
These are basics and there are ample literature out there that can teach and train us on these aspects (Smashing Magazine1, Tuts+2, A List Apart3). Now, I’d like to ask you the following two questions.
How do you keep up? How can you stay creative and on top of your field?
Over the previous years, I have learned the number one way to improve myself and produce some amazing designs. That unique way is to design, develop, market and maintain your very own project. This project can be anything from creating your own blog, building a community about your hobby, or even coming up with the next Facebook.
Designing and maintaining your own project is a time-consuming and very tiring exercise, especially when you already work lots of hours. But success doesn’t come easy. If you create your own online project about a subject that you are deeply interested in, it brings along a degree of accuracy and passion in the design, which is hard to get while working on most client projects.
Importance of a Personal Project
I am going to share some of my thoughts on why I believe it’s important for each web designer to design and maintain their own blog, community or next million dollar idea!
- Responsibility vs. Ownership
It is my belief that web designers are the key to the success of a website. Each website only has a few seconds to attract its visitors; and that is only feasible with a great design. When working on a client’s project, you do not have complete control of the project. But when you are your own client, the whole responsibility of design solely falls on you. This sense of ownership gives you freedom, which propels you to explore the newest trends4 and heights on the web.
Freshness and Craziness
Web designers simply love to create fresh designs. But how many crazy ideas can you implement in a client’s design? May be 20% or 30% at most? And how many crazy ideas can you implement on your own website? 100%! You can go crazy and shape your online baby in however way you desire. You can also include all the ideas that you have always wanted to experiment with in your designs. Your own website is a platform for you to test your ideas and eventually, you can show your clients that your ideas actually work!
- Unleash Your Creativity
Each website design requires creativity5. When working on a client’s project, creativity often gets hampered by ideas coming from the unaware client. When you are working for yourself, you can completely choose what colors and graphics will work best and what type of content your site will need. You will surely be able to create the most creative design in such a situation.
- Time Limitations vs. Experimentation
While working on a client’s project, there is usually a deadline which needs to be met. However, when working for yourself, you have flexibility to stretch your time because you want the best for your baby. This gives you all the time to experiment6, browse through the web searching for ideas, and learn the current trends on the web.
- Going Beyond Limits
Usually a human is limited by his or her personal knowledge. While employed, you are usually bound by your company’s training process and resources. On the contrary, when you work for yourself, you can gather all required resources and work through the latest tools. With that, you can push your limits to levels way beyond where you are right now.
- Open Feedback and Criticism
While working on a client’s project, there is typically a limited peer-group from where you can get direct open feedback on the design. That peer group includes the client, your team members, and – if you’re not a freelancer – your managers. However, when you design your project, you are not bound by the same constraints and you are able to show anyone. You can even go on Dribbble7 and get feedback from the world’s best designers.
- Design Principles
Above all, you will be able to apply all of the design principles9 that you have learned to your project. When designing for clients, there are times when they have no regard for design principles and would rather make the whole website fit above the fold10. When designing your project, you have the freedom to create a website that will be aesthetically pleasing to everyone because you have no constraints when designing the websites.
My Personal Project
At this stage, few of my dear readers might be thinking that it is easier said than done. Well, let me just say that I practice what I preach. Yes! My latest website, my child, my heart, my beauty is www.runaddicts.net11. For me, this is my proud trophy.
Running is something I love to do. Through RunAddicts, I have tried to implement all the points that I shared above. I have learned a ton, experienced freedom, as well as the thrill of going completely crazy when my project launched.
All the web designers who have implemented my suggestion and have worked frequently on their own projects observed that their design quality at work improved considerably; and so did their responsibility. Many of them have reported growth and increased their satisfaction in their career.
Thus, I recommend to all you web designers – you must start by creating your own project as soon as possible. Whether it’s a blog, a million dollar idea, or even a community about stargazing. It doesn’t even matter if you finish it, as long as you keep working on it, and trying out these new techniques, you’ll do great!
I sincerely hope that you too will gain from my experience and grow leaps and bounds in your designs. If you enjoyed this article, please help us share it with others. Also, you should follow us on Twitter here13.
- 1 http://www.smashingmagazine.com
- 2 http://tutsplus.com/
- 3 http://alistapart.com
- 4 http://designinformer.com/use-css3-now/
- 5 http://designinformer.com/your-creative-drive/
- 6 http://designinformer.com/benefits-experimentation/
- 7 http://dribbble.com
- 8 http://www.makemylogobiggercream.com/t-shirt.html
- 9 http://designinformer.com/how-to-drastically-improve-your-designs/
- 10 http://iampaddy.com/lifebelow600/
- 11 http://www.runaddicts.net/
- 12 http://www.runaddicts.net/
- 13 http://twitter.com/designinformer