Print designer looking for some web help!

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by KnaveMan, Apr 22, 2009.

  1. KnaveMan macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2009
    #1
    Hello,

    I've worked in graphic designer for a few years now. I have been drawing and painting my whole life and eventually got turned on to layout and design. I have only worked on 'printed' projects.

    I have noticed (for a while now) that there are so many designers that work in both the print and web realms. I feel this is great for it gives us all an extra avenue to use our skills. I took a few HTML, CSS and Flash classes at night. I cannot believe how hard and how distant it is from the actual art form of design! I really did not retain much and have to say I felt pretty anxious after leaving most classes. I just can't really get my head around coding.

    So my question is, what direction should I take from here?

    - Are the days of just a 'designer' over and the days of 'designer/coder' taking over?
    - Are there are simpler solutions for myself like Dreamweaver or Flash Catalyst (i know it's not out yet but looks perfect for someone like me)
    - Should I just bite the bullet and learn it?
     
  2. mlblacy macrumors 6502

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    #2

    I was in the same boat awhile back, and actually thought I was going to stop doing print work and work on the web... this was back when GoLive was the tool, and nobody used DreamWeaver. When GoLive was discontinued I moved into DreamWeaver... which for some reason I never really liked working in. So much so, that I stopped taking on web projects whenever I could. You are right... much of web work is arcane gobblygook, very far from the realm of "design" (right brained vs. left brained stuff). I come from the days of code-based typesetting, so I am very familiar with using "code" to "design" (it sucks, lol... and I have NO desire to go back to those days).

    Furthermore, some folks have a vested interest in keeping the arcane veil obscure... as it dissuades competition (my opinion on that).

    A year ago I discovered RapidWeaver, and web work became almost fun again. Rapidweaver is built around an almost open-source software community. It is relatively inexpensive (I think around $80), but you can easily get into some bucks with third-party extensions, design "themes", and associated software. The ap is deceptively simple, and very easy to pick up... yet quite complex and deep if you need something "more". Download a free demo and give it a try (most software is NOT worth the space it occupies on a hard disk sadly, so I always say to try before you buy any piece of software you are interested in). Much of the actual coding is hidden, much more so than in DW, leaving one to focus of content, images & design. The themes are really just bare-boned frameworks providing navigational logistics etc... but you can even start with a piece of "white paper" or a true blank slate if you desire. There are many options, but I really LOVE this program quite a bit. If I am in a jam I just post a query to their forums... and often within a few hours I have a few answers from folks all across the globe (designers, coders, developers, or even from the company itself). I really enjoy web work once again because of this ap...

    Beyond that there are other options...
    Check out MacRabbit.com, CSSedit2 is a very nice CSS ap you can use to build sites with. They also now have a new web development tool called Espresso. It seems similar in some ways to RW, but one is closer to the code (if that is your thing).
    There is also Flux (www.theescapers.com), which is interesting as well...

    The days of a true "designer" may be somewhat over, as technology for better or worse has intruded. Being a greybeard designer, with 25+ years experience I can say this world is MUCH better than the days of yore. The best teacher is hands-on experience, actually working on "real" projects (fear over lack of knowledge is a great motivator as you bumble around in the beginning, lol). There are a lot of screencasts, free ones you can find in Podcast form, or on a large site like Lynda.com... very handy for picking stuff up quickly.

    Whereas once I only had to worry about the area of design, eventually it spread into production, prepress, computers, software... you get the drift. The bad news is that we used to have separate persons to perform much of these duties, but now the "designer" has to be savvy enough to at least have a working knowledge of all of those areas. The good news is that the tools have evolved to help you perform the tasks that many used to perform. Computers have gotten faster & more powerful, and software packages have evolved as well. So you do have to "learn it", but you may not have to touch the code as much as you might think. Check out RapidWeaver... it is a lot of professionals "dirty-little secret" that they use to design & create websites with...

    cheers & good luck to you on your journey,
    michael
     
  3. KnaveMan thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Apr 22, 2009
    #3
    thank you so much Michael.

    What a great post! You seem to have dealt with alot of the same obstacles as I. I too really don't like Dreamweaver. I know it's meant to be a WYSIWYG but i find it pretty hard anyways.

    I haven't heard of the software you suggested and will be checking them out as soon as i can.
     
  4. Jess21 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2009
    #4
    Hi KnaveMan

    I understand where you are coming from. I wonder if the course you took has let you down. I wouldn't give up on interaction design with some coding at least, Flashcatalyst sounds great, but really you can use Flash very creatively with just a basic knowledge of code. You can cut and paste code without completely understanding it at first and then test your projects to see what does what, it's like pattern matching and a lot of visual people are good at that. In fact a lot of the modeling which is at the core of writing good code can be expressed graphically.

    A while back I went on a "computer course" I couldn't make head nor tail of it and the guy in the suit told me you haven't got a programmers brain you will never do it. Well I'm an artist and web designer and I can code and I can design. It's up to you, just get some good tutorials ie DesignProVideo.com, they have an offer on now
    https://www.designprovideo.com/subscribe/info/save40
    and they know how to teach , and work this through alongside your regular work, have some fun, get creative, take the pressure off. Don't let one bad experience put you off. Small steps... it might not be for you but then again it might Good Luck !!!

    Jess
     
  5. mlblacy macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2006
    Location:
    the REAL Jersey Shore
    #5
    No problem at all. You can email me if you have any questions at mlblacy at mac.com. I lot of people really like DW, but for some reason it never clicked with me. I could use it, and did for a few years... but the experience was sheer drudgery for some reason. After a few years of passing on too many web projects, I had a few I couldn't really refuse, as they were for some of my better long-term clients. I set out to see if there was a better solution for me. I downloaded a bunch of demos, and RW was one of them. The template based approach "fit" how I thought and worked (I originally came from a magazine background, so making templates was very familiar to me). I quickly discovered the depth of the application, and was comfortable I would not outgrow it too quickly. The best description I can think of is it is good for the mostly non-techies who want to produce and manage their own site, but it is also good for the more tech savvy folks who are comfortable with custom CSS, java snippets, and media browsers (you just have to dig a bit under the hood, and understand where RW "keeps" files, and how to get at them).

    What sold me was how crazy helpful the "users" and developers were. One would think that folks would guard the secrets & shortcuts they have picked up (as there is quite a bit of that among designers & studios... as you don't want to help your competition TOO much, lol), but they don't. It helps that the user base is across the globe too, and I don't feel as threatened by someone in the UK, as across the state from me.

    WYSIWYG in the world of online design really doesn't exist. If anything the market has gotten more confused, it was EASY when there were only two browsers you had to worry about. With print you can pretty much control the users experience, but you have no control over what computer your online visitors have, what res their screen is, what version of software they are running, or what platform they use. Many sites simply look and act differently when all these variables are factored in, and there isn't too much you can do about it. Most programs use design & preview modes (and RW does this too). iWeb has probably the most graphical interface, where the work you are doing sorta looks like the end result (hopefully). But I don't think IW has the chops for a professional site tool (but it can produce some nice-looking, but weighty, personal websites).

    So, don't get discouraged, and keep plugging away. Take the time to find the tools you need that fit the way you think & work. Be open to changing your direction & approach when new tools appear on the horizon. I shifted from DW to RW, and also from PShop to Aperture for most of my image editing (after years of just using pshop). I still use photoshop for design tasks, but where it used to be 100% of my imaging, now it is only 10-20%. Aperture is simply WAY faster, and the archiving features set it apart. Who knows, maybe Apple will introduce a pro level web ap (and I would indeed check it out if it did).

    Remember the best teacher is hands on experience. You would be amazed how quickly you can pick something up when you are using an ap "for real".
    regards,
    michael

    PS: check out www.smashingmagazine.com, they are an ok site for tracking design trends. Also Communication Arts is a worthwhile print subscription for their "annuals" covering design, photos, etc.. There are tons of good blogs as well, like www.shawnblanc.net, or http://www.creativereview.co.uk/crblog/
     
  6. mlblacy macrumors 6502

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    #6
  7. truehuman macrumors newbie

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    Apr 25, 2007
    #7
    Different Worlds

    I can understand your dilema KnaveMan. Print and Web are two completely different worlds. Moving between them is like going to a place where normal rules don't apply anymore. They are two completely different ways of designing with their own methods, rules, requirements, restrictions, tricks and secrets.

    I studied multimedia at University, but did graphic design as a minor. I thought I was covering my bases - web and print.

    Then I headed out to the real world and got a job as a graphic designer at a printery. Talk about stepping into the deep end. It was a steep learning curve that uni did little to prepare me for.

    A few years later I got back into the multimedia and web - which is what I work in now.

    From experience your best to stick to your strenghs. Interface and layout for web can still make good use of your skills. What I would suggest is finding some IT nerd to work with - you take care of the design and they program it up. I friend of mine worked in one such agency - she designed in photoshop and illustrator and gave it to the IT guy to turn it into a website.

    I also agree with mlblacy, the are a range of tools out there that are built to respond to the "design" mind, RapidWeaver is one. CSSEdit is fantastic too! There's some fantastic web tutorials out there but don't forget about print!!! I learnt most of my skills the old fashioned way - by reading. The publisher http://www.lynda.com/ has some great material - I learnt from the books but they've moved into digital media now.

    If you can see a market and a chance to make some extra $$$ then have a bash - but don't be afraid to admit it's not for you.

    Just find a nerd to do it for you!!!
     
  8. KnaveMan thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2009
    #8
    wow.... thanks a lot guys. Your posts have really helped.

    I agree, Flash seems to be the easiest for me to pick up, even though actionscripting is very very hard.(for me anyways) but i really enjoy the fact that i don't have to worry about tables (outdated i know!), slicing etc...

    I definitely had some bad experiences with web. Both school and work related. For work, i've have chosen to hire a freelance IT guy to program my sites. Unfortunately that doesn't leave me with much profit :( sometimes hardly worth my time.

    Anybody ever hear of or try Sitegrinder?
     
  9. stainlessliquid macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2006
    #9
    You need to learn how to construct a website so its at least put together. You dont need to learn programming like PHP and actionscript (youll of course need to know basic actionscript like gotoAndPlay stuff). HTML and CSS are a far cry from programming and are really easy, I would expect every web designer to know how to put together a website that uses decent HTML/CSS.
     
  10. mlblacy macrumors 6502

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    #10
    Not to start a flame-war or anything, but comments like " I would expect every web designer to know how to put together a website that uses decent HTML/CSS", are the kind of vague dissuasion that only serves to squash any young designers first fumbling steps as they try to figure it out for themselves. I would love every young designer to know and care about proper type kerning, but it may not happen, and I never have voiced such opinion. If I did, would I dissuade someone from entering or attempting their hand at "design", as opposed to opening a pet grooming salon? Ever since Pagemill (lol, dating myself with that one), the "purists" have insisted the only manly & correct way to build a page was hand-tagged completely in code. This is nonsense, otherwise the same would hold true in regards to building your designs in pure postscript code as opposed to "cheating" and resorting to "desktop" publishing aps like Quark & InDesign.

    Someone else pointed out that sometimes it is wise to farm out some of the more arcane programming bits (I agree, as it is hard to be an expert in everything).

    Yes, clean code & efficiently loading pages is desirable, but no one will die if your first few sites have some errors & issues. The important thing is to learn from your experience, and especially your mistakes. One never succeeds from the chances one never takes, so DON'T be dissuaded. The only constant is change, and you will have to continually learn new skills, techniques & applications. Many schools teach the tools of yesterday, and not the tools of tomorrow, so much of your skillset will be built "on the job".

    No matter which program you choose to work in, you WILL learn a little about CSS, javascripts, etc... even if you are just pasting in little pieces of code gotten from somewhere/someone else. Don't underestimate the learning potential of trial & error as you fumble around trying to work things out.

    I am always more bothered by the folks who have been producing ugly, inefficient & just generally horrible work (print & web) for 5-10 years, than some of the train wrecks I have seen by someone just starting out. Learn what makes a good and attractive site/design, and then how to achieve/copy that look/effect.

    Two good resources to look into are:
    Krug's "Don't Make Me Think". Short, funny & very good...

    The OLD book called "Web Pages that Suck" by Vince Flanders & someone else I can't think of... VERY funny, and the whole approach uses real examples of what "sucks", and tells you what NOT to do (back when the "blink" tag was so popular, lol). They have a website... www.webpagesthatsuck.com

    Comments like "CSS is easy" only make someone feel stupid for not understanding it, or grasping it quickly. Honestly, some of this stuff really mixes the right brain/left brain up, and creativity does not really flow from the same place as the ability to deal with some of the more arcane & technical "code-y" bits.

    peace,
    michael
     
  11. KnaveMan thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Apr 22, 2009
    #11
    i'm definitely one of those stupid people!!! lol
    i have tried to learn HTML.CSS and have to admit, I feel short. Personally I would chose professionalism over doeverythingmedicoreism. Therefore i have always pushed to have a qualified programmer/coder to finalize my designs. However, sometimes budgets simply don't allow for this. I am a qualified designer/illustrator, yet I still have to use stock illustrations due to smaller budgets. So in that case why wouldn't a designer resort to a software like Rapidweaver? If you can create a simple site that functions and fits the clients needs, why stress over whether it was coded by hand or by an editor?

    Just my 2 cents.
     
  12. MacBoobsPro macrumors 603

    MacBoobsPro

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    Jan 10, 2006
    #12
    The line between a print designer and web designer is so blurred now it is actually an annoyance to me. I'm a print designer and have no desire to become a 'web designer'.

    I am very much a visual thinker and working in Dreamweaver which (even in design view) is very much code based I find it cumbersome and so complicated it is a very frustrating experience.

    I find these days that if you see a 'graphic designer' vacancy in the paper, on the net etc it will invariably mean they want a print designer that also knows HTML, CSS, Flash etc and still only want to pay you the equivalent of a print designer.

    Its like asking a car mechanic to work on both cars and aircraft for the same amount he would usually work on just cars.

    This blurring of the line is causing designers (be it print, web or both) to be very much undervalued and as a result very much underpaid. Especially with MS Paint have a go at home heroes.

    To answer the original question I would say you would benefit from learning web stuff but only that it will get you more interviews because most jobs want both. The place where we all suffer is in the salary and appreciation of our skills.
     
  13. SwiftLives macrumors 65816

    SwiftLives

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    #13
    I'm not a coder. My brain just isn't wired that way. I do try to get as much of an understanding of it so I can design a webpage. But I tend to outsource the actual programming. Trying to code it using standards when the 4 main browsers each render the same code slightly differently is not something I want/need to spend my time doing.
     
  14. covisio macrumors 6502

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    UK
    #14
    When I started dabbling in the evil world of the web, I picked up what was a popular program at the time called Freeway.
    It's still going, though I don't know if it quite has the following it used to. It modelled itself on Quark (no, don't laugh), inasmuch as it handled like a page layout program.
    Though I look back at those early sites I made (some of which are still online), and cringe a little, it was still a good transitional app. to use because it took the fear factor out of jumping into web-based design.
    GoLive was the next step, which was shaping up to be a really decent app. for the likes of you and me, but of course we all know what happened then....
    Some of the useful GoLive features have made it into Dreamweaver, such as the site navigation and a more Adobe-like UI.
    But really, don't be afraid. What's the worse you can do? There is one major advantage web design will always have over print, and that's if you make a cock-up, as we say in the UK, it won't be permanently impressed onto 300,000 copies of print, instead merely a couple of keystrokes away from a fix.
    Most of the sites I make would still be pulled apart by one of those pedant egotist 'coders', but I don't care, really ;-)
     
  15. KnaveMan thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Apr 22, 2009
    #15
    Catalyst

    Has anybody heard of Flash Catalyst. The beta is not even out yet but from what i've seen it really makes me happy!

    You can basically design your site in illy/ps/fire and import it to Catalyst. From there you can create a Flex website, without having to write any actionscript or flex code. You can either export to swf or give the working file to a flex developer to write the more complicated 'back-end' code.

    Personally I feel this will become a HUGE benefit to us Print designers.
     
  16. stainlessliquid macrumors 68000

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    Sep 22, 2006
    #16
    Just learn how to do it the proper way if youre going to be charging money for your services. HTML and CSS is about memorization, not logic like normal programming, its not hard to learn if you do it enough to remember what all the tags do.

    Make websites the right away and after a few sites youll know HTML/CSS quite well. Using some WYSIWYG editor is not going to help and will give subpar websites.
     
  17. dmz macrumors regular

    dmz

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    Canada
    #17
    I am reminded of the old adage, "the more things change, the more they stay the same". Graybeard designers remember when printwork was done on many levels. Graphic Designers created the form and content of a printed piece, but the actual execution was carried out by Typesetters and Graphic Artists, and then, finally, the prepress and Pressmen. Designers didn't begin crowding into the production area until the birth of Desktop Publishing. Graphic Artists began breaking out into Design as well. Lately, whenever we say Designer, we usually mean Designer/Typesetter/Artist/Prepress. Now, it looks like we want to add Coder to that. I hope that day never comes. Some things are better done by experts - and you can't be expert at everything.

    I bring this up only to point out that Design is still Design, and there are only two kinds of Design - good and bad, and everybody's idea of just what that is is just that - their opinion. The real Art is getting the Design realized, whether the final media is concrete or paper or oil paint or a video display.

    The problem we're discussing here, designer vs coder, is a rehash of the same transition we went though twenty-five years ago. The analogy of using Adobe Illustrator to create PostScript files is too right. I know how to draw using PostScript commands, and I can debug PostScript too, a handy skill, but I would never spend the hours and hours required to code one page of a magazine when I can create the same thing with any drawing or layout program in minutes. Sure, the resulting PostScript code is bloated, and at one time that really mattered, but concerns about file size and RIP time have vanished. This will happen, is happening, with the world of HTML, and Flash Catalyst sounds an awful lot like the leading edge of the final transition - when designers move into the coding room - which will only truly happen, you guessed it, when there's no more coding to do. We've been there, and we've done that, and it's gonna happen again.

    "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"
    Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr 1808-1890

    dmz
     
  18. mlblacy macrumors 6502

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    #18
    Yikes... talk about sticking to your guns, lol. While I agree that most folks will pick up a rudimentary knowledge of html, css, etc. when building/working on websites (no matter what tool they use)... I winced when you said if you charge money you should do it "the proper way". While I agree that no one should pay for shoddy work, the implication that hard-coding is the ONLY correct way is a bridge too far.

    Implying that all sites created with any of the so-call WYSIWYG are inherently sub-par is a bunch of bunk. I would go so far as to argue that the converse is true. I have seen more crap-sites generated in "proper" code by many a programmer-turned-I think I am an-artist/designer, than from a designer trying to bumble his/her way into creating a functional yet aesthetically pleasing site. It goes back to the right/left brain thing...

    DMZ hit the nail on the head... and I am one of those greybeards who remember those days, AND used to write code to produce paginated layouts. Anyone who claims that was a better way to work, clearly is NOT old enough to remember how many limitations you had to deal with. Arguing about the tools used is inane. Just because one has a $10,000 carbon fiber hammer (do they make those? lol), does not mean you can build an award winning house. You need the talent & creativity to make those tools sing and to produce "good work". The argument over hand-coding may have been valid in the days of PageMill, but less so with each iteration of new aps & version advancements of existing programs. Good design has little or nothing to do with the code used to render it.

    My hunch was correct, and this line of thought only serves to squash a budding designer's desire to work in the online realm, and fosters a nagging sense of inadequacy that may be "fatal". Knave even admitted that "i'm definitely one of those stupid people!!! lol i have tried to learn HTML.CSS and have to admit, I feel short...".

    In latin there is the expression "cui bono"... which means "who profits". I have always wondered if those code-purists are just afraid of losing business. Get over it... the train already left the station.

    I once had a Fiat sports car... I could change a belt in the dark with only a screwdriver. I do not have the Fiat anymore, and I haven't had to change ay belts in the dark either. Progress... I love it.

    peace.
     
  19. dmz macrumors regular

    dmz

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    #19
    Just had to note the irony of this thread, because as I read this forum and some of the astute comments about devaluing skills, I can't help but notice that the banner ad at the bottom of the page is touting "HTML coding for $10/hr."

    Oh, the irony of it all!

    dmz
     
  20. 4D4M macrumors regular

    4D4M

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    Broken Britain
    #20
    I agree to an extent, but I don't think there's any harm in using WYSIWYG to give you a quick start.

    I'm someone who has no patience and needs to see instant results from what I'm doing. When I first started out, (this is going back over a decade ago, using Claris Home Page would you believe!), I found that using a visual editor was ideal.

    I just made sure I forced myself to switch to code view frequently to build up an understanding of the tags and what they do.
     
  21. 4D4M macrumors regular

    4D4M

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    #21
    Are people really charging as much as that these days? Damn, I'm going to have to increase my prices! ;)
     
  22. stainlessliquid macrumors 68000

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    Sep 22, 2006
    #22
    Thats too much. Id rather find some middle schooler to do it cheaper.
     
  23. mlblacy macrumors 6502

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    #23

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