Should You Learn Web Design?
Back when I graduated about ten years ago, I would have said no, with confidence. The problem with that is that right after I graduated, employers started looking for people who were experienced with both print and web design. This is a tough debate, considering there are a lot of designers out there who would like to keep the two fields separated. Let’s take a look at both and we’ll easily arrive at an answer.
Graphic design encompasses identity design, logo design, print design, brochures, flyers, business cards, and anything related to print. this includes signs, environmental graphics and more. There are jobs out there that focus mainly on these areas of design, but they are few and far between. It’s tough to find a job in the design field anyway, considering the field is pretty saturated with people and businesses offering their services.
It’s a Double Edged Sword
What I mean by that is: Do you want a job immediately? The catch 22 in this is the fact that in order to get one of those cushy jobs where you work mainly on print design, identity projects, branding, etc., you have to have experience and work your way up. The problem is that you need a job to get the experience. Most of the jobs that are available right now require the knowledge of both areas of design. In other words, you can’t get the job without the experience, and you can’t get the experience without the job.
The Market Has Changed
No longer are print designers paid good money to do their work. Unless you specialize in something specific like logo design, you’ll have trouble charging $50 per hour to do anything print related. You can charge by the job, but you’ll need to get some decent clients and build a good client list to pay the bills.
Web design tends to pay more, because it requires a little more technical expertise than the average person is comfortable with. You can easily bill at $50 per hour without any haggling on their end. Web design projects are more involved, but they pay more. Honestly, that’s where the money is.
It Will Only Benefit You
Knowing web design isn’t going to have a downside. Whether you do it full time, or you supplement your print design skills with web design skills, it won’t hurt to have them. Everything seems to be web based now. If you can build your own website, you can promote yourself a lot easier than if you don’t. Understanding how to create beautiful web graphics and sites that are SEO friendly will only help your business.
If you learn web design, you can build websites, your own landing pages, and you can drive sales to your business much more effectively. 10 years ago, people still opened the Yellow Pages to look for a business. Now, they hop on their smart phones and Google it or ask Siri. Having your business listed in web directories, and having a website that ranks locally for your industry will drive many more sales than any print ad I can imagine.
If you ask me directly if I think graphic designers should learn web design, I would definitely say yes! Ignoring the main source of income available is like living in denial. You have to use everything to your advantage to market yourself, your skills, and your business. Web design skills are a lucrative skill set that can bring you a stable income that print design alone can’t match. It will only open up more opportunities for you to get your name out there.
I’m amazed by how many print designers refuse to learn web design simply because it is different. The concepts are definitely different, but not so to the point where you need to avoid it.
You rightfully write about the crucial business sides between the client and the designer (source of income, hourly rates, lucrative skill) and the more technically involved disciplines (like SEO, the inevitable principles of HTML, the tricky stuff in CSS, etc.). But I think you really should need to touch on another key aspect of the question why designers should get their hands on web design. Quote: “Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works.” Steve Jobs…
Many web designers (and their clients) still underestimate how important, and almost tangible, matters like interfaces and interactions are. From an extensive click-flow diagram, to defining the flipping of tabs, moving of panels, and fading of menus, these are all part of the design as a whole. Just like the designs of a logo and illustrations, and choices in type, colors, ornamental elements are.
Too often I hear web designers and front-end developers utter things like “and then it goes away”, or “just let the menu change”, when they’re presented with design decisions about interaction. Would they also be happy to instruct the front-end developer to “just take any serif font” or “just pick any funky color” ? No, damn no ! So why leave these great design opportunities on the table ? Or even worse: let the developer or client decide on it ?
Let me spell it out for those designers:
T h i s i s y o u r n e w j o b ! !
Wow, Peter, thanks for your response! I agree. Why leave money on the table? I make more money overall with web design and development projects than I do with small print and graphics jobs, but they also take more time. It is kind of a double edged sword.