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How to become a Web Developer or Graphic Designer

Interested in becoming a graphic designer or front end web developer? In this blog post we delve into how you can make a start in either industry and stand out.

So You Want to be a Graphic Designer?

It’s worth noting that the lines that separated the online and offline world are becoming increasingly blurred. That logo you designed for a local garage now needs to be able to work on a website. Which is why it’s vital for any present and future graphic designer to be able to use tools available online as well as offline.

With that in mind, by all means stick to pen and paper, it’s a great technique. But the ability to take that initial design and apply it to a software package like Illustrator for use on a website, that will forever be a useful skill to have.

When it comes to becoming a graphic designer there are certainly a lot of ‘nice-to-haves’. It’s true that you don’t necessarily need a degree to land a graphic design role. Although that’s not to say obtaining a degree won’t help you stand out.

You may not like the idea of creating mock-ups for websites, but more and more agencies are looking for an in-house graphic designer who can take on a range of different projects rather than look for someone who specialises in a certain field.

It’s important that learning doesn’t end after graduation. No diploma will ever be sufficient enough to make you a talented designer forever. Inspiration, Research and Constant Learning – these are three things that must continually be done to keep up with the times and to not be left behind.

To be a good graphic designer many employers will look for knowledge and skills consisting of:

  • Understanding and experience of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator whether it’s website elements, mock-ups or branding
  • An understanding of current typography trends and techniques
  • An understanding and Experience on Icon, Logo and Print Design
  • A strong portfolio of work, if you’re just starting out – make up a company, or perhaps approach a local business
  • Work experience, not only will this give you more to add to your portfolio, but also confidence
  • Which bring us to confidence. The ability to essentially ‘sell’ your work. If you have confidence in the logo you’ve created it will show the client they made the right choice

Actions speak louder than words which is why your portfolio should be in a constant stage of development showing your progression.

So You Want to be a Front End Web Developer?

The first thing you should should be aware that the term Front End Web Developer and Web Designer are difficult to distinguish. Web Designers tend to be more focused on the designing aspect of the task whereas Front End Development deals more with the implementation side.

Of course, there are overlapping skill sets between the two roles (e.g. HTML, CSS, Javascript), and in many cases the two jobs are done by the same person in the company which is why Web Design and Development are often seen as the same thing.

So Web Designer/Developer definition aside. The roles involve a lot more than people often think. Tasks such as following branding guidelines, initial designs, psychology (Gestalt for example), usability, accessibility and copyright – the list goes on.

It’s up to the Front End Web Designer/Developer to take these on board and develop the website using coding languages such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

So to be a good Web Designer/Developer employers tend to look for knowledge and skills consisting of:

  • Semantic HTML, using HTML tags for their intended purpose
  • CSS, Knowledge of LESS & SASS is a bonus
  • JavaScript and popular APIs such as jQuery, Foundation etc
  • WordPress/MODx, often seen as the more popular Content Management Systems
  • Adobe Photoshop, even basic knowledge can be greatly beneficial for an agency
  • General interest and knowledge of latest techniques, keeping up to date with the latest techniques ensures you’re using the best methods for each project.

Like with becoming a Graphic Designer, actions speak louder than words, which is why your portfolio should be in a constant stage of development showing your progression.

So What Now?

Whichever path you choose, whether it’s graphic designer or web designer/developer, the most important thing to consider is that you enjoy it.

  • If you’re at GCSE level, focus on something you enjoy
  • A-Levels, perhaps more catered to what you want to consider in the future. If you’re considering university later on, there’s often no specific subject requirement (Although it’s always worth checking)
  • If you’re considering college or university, it’s time to focus in on your skillset and pick out what you feel could be a career move.

There are many different styles of courses and anything suggested here is certainly no substitute for a careers adviser. (Many Web Design focused courses go under the label ‘Digital Media’ and ‘Web Design and Development’.)

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