How do you transition from being a graphic designer to a web designer? You’ve been in the graphic design field and discovered something - you don’t really like it. Or, maybe you’re in the situation where you’re a year away from graduating with a degree in graphic degree, but you realize this isn’t for you. Or, you’d just like a change. Here are some ways to make the transition from graphic designer to web designer a bit easier.
How to Transition from Graphic Designer to Web Designer
You’ve been in the graphic design field and discovered something - you don’t really like it. Or, maybe you’re in the situation where you’re a year away from graduating with a degree in graphic degree, but you realize this isn’t for you. Or, you’d just like a change. So what’s the best way of making the transition from graphic to web designer?
While there are definite similarities between the fields, and in some programs courses overlap, the first thing to remember is that you’re dealing with two very different mediums. Graphic design still generally means working in the area of print, while web design is exactly what it says - designing on computers for the World Wide Web.
That said; let’s look at ways to make a smooth transition. One thing to consider from the outset is whether you want to be a generalist or a specialist within the field. Darren Pearson, Computer Technology Instructor with Saint Paul College in Minnesota notes that, “It is possible for someone to do “˜pure design’ using just Dreamweaver, Flash, and Photoshop and make a living, especially if they have a lot of outstanding examples in their portfolio.” Pearson believes the best place for someone seeking employment as a web designer while focusing on the design element is with medium to large companies where large projects are delegated to a team.
In a team environment there are more distinct areas with certain individuals handling specific areas of a project. For example, when I was employed as a course developer for the Accenture organization, writers were responsible for researching and writing the course content, graphic designers developed the visuals, web designers worked with media and sound elements, and computer programmers handled the programming/eCommerce side of things, interfacing with databases, security, and launching the site on the Internet. Unfortunately, Pearson notes that there has not been a great deal of growth for web design services within large corporations in recent years, and many web designers have moved into freelancing or working for smaller businesses. In this scenario, many companies look for a “jack of all trades” web designer who has enough broad experience in design, programming, and networking that such a person might actually work as both a web designer, web master, and graphic designer for the company.
The lack of growth element can also affect someone wishing to take the IT specialist route. Pearson believes that once the IT field and economy as a whole bounce back, having expertise in a particular segment of the field will change. “I think the demand for specialist will rise,” Pearson says. “Until the economy rebounds, I personally think it’s safer to be a generalist. Things change quickly in IT, and if you specialize in one or two specific tools today, you never know if something’s going to come along in the next few years that make that tool or technology obsolete. As with all things in the IT industry, staying on top of the latest technology and tools is very important. This involves keeping up with the new tools, new versions of old tools, new operating systems and browsers, plus the change in general infrastructure. By that I mean the fact that very few American household had DSL or Cable connection in 1997 while the majority of Americans now do.”
So where does this leave the graphic designer wanting to move into web design? First, learn as much as you can about web design, understanding that you have an advantage in your knowledge of design principles, many of which can be applied to web design as well as being concepts IT professionals may lack. In your search for employment, you might want to apply Pearson’s “jack of all trades” web designer philosophy to small and medium sized companies where you wear a number of different hats. Ultimately it comes down to multiple aspects including whether you want to specialize or have a broader knowledge base to share and where the economy is headed. Since you don’t have a great deal of control over how quickly the economy rebounds, you may also have to make the transition in several stages, changing to your dream web designer job over time.
Catherine Johnson is a writer and graphic designer living in Minnesota. You may reach her via e-mail at: email@example.com.
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