Have you taken any design classes?

Back to School

Sorry this is late today, I had a crisis with a client which upped the adrenaline levels and then the migraine that resulted made it hard to see the screen for a while. 🙂 But everything is good now.

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about learning design. When I first started out as a web developer I didn’t have any formal design knowledge. I hadn’t taken any design classes. I focused primarily on building websites and applications that helped solve a problem. I was much more worried that the things I built worked, than whether they looked pretty. As I worked I realized that sometimes the look of the page or application was affecting whether it worked. For example, sometimes the position of a button would affect whether the customers would see it and click on it. I also noticed that colors impacted the usage of applications. I think I fell completely into the design rabbit hole when I started playing with typography and discovered that even the choice of font and how tight or loose the text was affected site usability. And that whole process I did without taking a single design class.

Imagine my dismay when I walked into a design class and learned that everything I’d painstakingly figured out over years of development work was already well known by designers.

Design Classes are Useful

An apple a day...
Design courses don’t have to be in an actual school setting.

They can teach you things much more quickly than most of us can learn through trial and error. Plus you get the benefit of your instructor’s knowledge and the enthusiasm and assistance of your classmates. It’s easy to think that you don’t need a design class because you already know what you like to look at on web pages. But by learning formal design rules you’ll know when your design is breaking them and why. And you’ll be able to make a case for breaking those rules. But the real reason it’s useful to take a design class is because you’ll probably learn something that will improve your designs today, without any split tests or customer complaints.

Have You Taken any Design Classes?

If you have, did you find them of value? why or why not? If you haven’t, are you considering taking a design class? What kinds of classes appeal most to you? Do you like formal, in-person classes or informal, online courses you do at your own pace?

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6 thoughts on “Have you taken any design classes?

  1. Hi Jennifer; thank you for your years of generous sharing of your broad knowledge of and experience with web development. I have tried taking web design courses at the local community college. My experience there was that the teachers knew their subjects quite well, but were either not very good at teaching or were overwhelmed by the numbers of students and their ‘needs’. When twenty or more hungry minds avidly try to consume and absorb a large quantity of new info, the instructors appeared to ‘shut down’ or ‘close up’ after a certain number of questions and repeated explanations. I had assumed that there would be an advantage to having a human ‘mentor’ in the classroom who would be able to answer all of my questions at every juncture. That’s not always the case. It seems to me that a ‘lab’ type situation wherein students could work at their own pace and have relatively free access to the teacher (or teacher’s aid or student mentor or coach) would be ideal. There must be such types of learning happening across the internet; the closest I’ve come to it are/were the classes you give/gave on html that one could start and finish at his own pace. The problem there was that there was no real time ‘face’ time, so there was no ‘pressure’ to finish anything and no sense of an end goal.

  2. I forgot to empathize with you in my previous comment, Ms. Kyrnin, about the stress with your client. Sorry you have to deal with such situations, but – alas – we are human and are flawed, I think, by nature – except for my wife and my customers. :o)

  3. What online design classes would you recommend for a web developer. How much time would it take to complete a course? I am elderly but very active in web development.

    1. I haven’t taken a lot of online courses, personally. But I like the SitePoint and Treehouse offerings. These sites offer self-paced courses that you can do at a speed that is comfortable for you.

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