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Spring 2014

Essays by recent graduates for today’s undergrad design students.




What once was teams of copywriters and designers has shifted to teams of developers and designers, throwing new graduates into a brand new (and unfamiliar) environment. Instead of a pair of creative fields collaborating, the right and left sides of the brain are coming together to work. With two fields closing in on each other, and becoming united, should there be cause for concern? After all, these new teams are tomorrow’s norm.

The World of Design is Evolving.

how the site is going to work, how it should function, etc. You need both teams to make a website successful. Nobody is able to do every piece of the puzzle.

The shift is no surprise, technology is constantly being upgraded, updated and changed to create a more accessible and user friendly world. Without learning to work cohesively, productivity and industry could begin to slow down; so how do we shift our processes to include this whole new area.

Creating a Smoother Workflow.

Web design is like pie. On the outside you have your crust and presentation, what makes it look so delicious . On the inside there’s what makes it so good. There’s fruit or chocolate or whatever. What’s inside makes it work! Web design works the same way. Web designers are concerned with the look and feel, how the user interacts with the website and the developers are concerned with

Taken from a study at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, students from the computer science and art and design disciplines were teamed up in a course. The course was based upon experiences from past students in the workplace, as well as a previous program, the Software Productization Center at Millersville University. Similar to the course, students worked with a local start up company directly, taking time to communicate needs and wants, and to learn to work together in a closed setting. Students in the course worked in an open setting, only being required to work together physically during the allotted course time. Groups were encouraged to work outside of the classroom together, and to keep steady, reliable communication. The need for process became apparent in both situations, but there came a need for it faster in the classroom course. With being limited to a semester to accomplish a number of goals, as well as balance additional coursework from classes outside of this one, there was little room for

mistakes and lost time. The Center required a set amount of hours for students to work together, in the same room, giving them a more focused scope of the project at hand (the program was also held during the summer months).

So what were the findings? 1.) Adaptation - being able to recognize the different qualities, and skill levels each team member brought to the table was incredibly important when getting off the ground running. Being able to understand one another’s personalities and then compromising to have one person’s strengths cover another’s weaknesses. Knowing what each member is capable of, and then using it to the group’s advantage helped fulfill gaps that could have been made had adaptation not occurred.

2.) Communication - Within two different group settings, communication can come in a number of ways. Within the closed environment, conversations were mainly faceto-face interaction, with minimal ‘after hours’ e-mails. The open setting defaulted to e-mails in between class settings. Miscommunication became increasingly common, leading to unproductive work sessions done individually and missed responsibilities. This ultimately led to a number of set backs that could have been avoided. 3.) Expectations - Coming into each project, each member had their own expectations and assumptions of what the others would be able to bring to the table and were capable of, skill-wise. Within the first week of working together, the closed setting group took the time to define roles, explain what their specialty areas were, and express what others could expect from them. With these defined roles, any unrealistic assumptions were halted immediately. In the other group, although time was taken out to spell out qualifications and experience, assumptions defaulted when it came to responsibilities. Without having a clear understanding of what each student was able to do, and could quickly pick up, this led to set backs, and unproductive time. It also led to internal

rifts, with one student deleted another student’s work after feeling his ability to complete an aspect of work was better than hers, despite the higher experience level, and proper major, she had. 4.) Quick Learning - Even with all of the above, no group is going to have all their bases covered. Being able to determine what components were possible, time and skill set wise, helped with time management. If a member was unclear on being able to do a task, being able to learn quickly, and execute properly, kept the ball rolling. This also plays hand in hand with the above mentioned qualities. Assumptions, miscommunication and the lack of ability, or willingness, to adapt makes this particular trait hard to come by. Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t other factors that played a role in the success of each group. There were, also, additional qualities each group held, that the other did not. Individual factors, such as work ethic and attitude, greatly effected each member and their dedication to the project. From the research analyzed, the group that worked with the closed setting came away from the project feeling more successful and happy with their experience. Perhaps it was the element of being within the same room that sparked creative conversation that helped with this, or something entirely different. The group that worked in an open setting walked away still holding frustrations about the project and towards members. This could’ve been an individual thing, such as a personality clash, or it could have been the fact that a majority of the work was done remotely.

DESIGNER OR DEVELOPER : Why does it matter?

By definition: A Web Designer is someone who designs web pages. They are usually more focused on the look & feel of a website than how it works and often uses WYSIWYG editors rather than diving into the HTML directly (1). Web designers are often grouped into graphic design, as web is usually subset (or concentration area) of graphic design as a whole.  A Web Developer is someone who programs web pages. They are usually more focused on how a way website works rather than how it looks. They typically build websites using text editors, command lines or other software and work with databases and programming languages (2). As seen to the right, jobs in web development are expected to grow at an incredible rate. In fact, web developers were pretty high up on the list of 2014’s hot jobs, as compiled by U.S. News. The job ranks as #3 in the best technology jobs and #9 in the 100 best jobs lists. However, upon reading their description of a web developer, web designers with HTML & CSS experience could easily be grouped in with this ranking.

15–21% 3–7% Web Designer*

Web Developer*

(slower than average)

(faster than average)


So, how much does a degree really matter? In today’s society, higher education seems to be a neccesary step in getting a job you love. While that’s not neccesarily the case for every employer, the majority of designers and developers hired do possess a bachelor’s degree of some sort.

of employers look for designers who have a 4 year degree in graphic design. of employers look for developers who have a 4 year degree in computer programming.

Although a degree is preferred for web developers, it is US News notes that a certification is also acceptable in the web development and related fields.

MEDIAN S ALA RY Web Designer


Web Developer



43% 27% 20% 4% Some college, no degree

11% Associate’s DegreeB

achelor’s Degree

But what about skill set? As the two fields begin to overlap, skill set is becoming more important than what you majored in in college. Every job is different, even if the title is the same. Many employer generally looks for some common skills, but others may require their designers to know HTML5 and CSS3, whereas others may not. It really depends on the industry, size of the agency and clients. Just as graphic design can be divided into print and web design, development can be broken down into front and back end design. Front end developers work with languages that manipulate what the user sees in the browser, whereas back end developers tend to work with databases and other behind the scenes languages.

HTML 5 Ability to use Adobe Creative Suite/Cloud Design sense: Typography, Color Theory, Layout Design, Grid Theory, Imagery Implementation

CSS3 Content Manag emen t Systems (CMS ) Willingness to l earn User Experience

Lanaguages such as: Java, JavaScript, jQuery & PHP Experience with database systems

But with different titles, comes with different salaries. Although, it’s not just title and field. Salary can greatly vary depending upon location, size of company, your experience and skillset. These are some average numbers to get an idea of what different titles tend to make. So while, on average, a developer’s salary is about $20k higher than a designers, $25,000 Front End Web Designer

on average, it’s the skill set that creates that difference. With a computer science or programming background, developers tend to spend a lot of time trouble shooting and learning new languages and best industry practices.




Graphic Designer/Web Developer


Graphic Web Designer


Junior Web Designer


Interactive Web Designer


Senior Web Design Developer


Senior Web Designer


Web & Print Designer Web Designer

$63,000 $58,000

Web Designer Developer Web Graphics Designer Web Production Designer Web UI Designer

$72,000 $55,000 $58,000 $71,000

Never Stop Learning “I just like to know things.” – Op-Ed by Bri Piccari “Over the last four years (five if you count the art school year), I’ve come to realize design is just one of those fields in which you can never stop learning...” If you do, you’ll easily get left in the dust wondering why on earth you’d want to design anything mobile-first. What I know, right now, will probably be outdated a year, six months, maybe even a week from now. Technology changes everything, it’s impossible to guess where we’ll be in five years, even one. If college has taught me anything, it’s that you have to at least like what you do. Like it

enough to spend hours after work learning new concepts and ideas to keep up with the crowd. After all, if you’re going to have to motivate yourself to keep learning about it for the rest of your design career, you’re going to have the hardest time if you don’t at least enjoy it. I’ve come to grips with the fact that what I’ll know when I graduate this May won’t be applicable in a year, maybe even six months from then. A

degree is just a foundation for the blocks you’ll have to build and break down as you continue your career. Techniques will change and trends are called trends for a reason - they’re just temporary. Why so much change? Technology; Smart phones, smart glasses and now smart watches create new problems to be solved, and new boundaries to just keep pushing.

The Internet is a Goldmine.

With a few keywords and some clicks, you can learn any and everything. Want to learn a new language? That’s easy, just Google it. Always wanted to learn HTML but never knew where to start? Google it. The answers are everywhere, it’s all in where and how you look.

“This abundance of available information makes finding resources and learning new things easy, but can you trust it all?”

A few free (or almost free), great online resources:

The truth is, it doesn’t matter. Learn something new – test, tweak, and adapt because next month there will be something new to learn. You may find a hidden gem, or a not-so-hidden rotten egg. The point is that you found it.

But it has to do with passion and interest.

Some may think believe that doing what you love or following your dreams is a waste of time – just get a normal job and earn your dollar. My thinking is if you don’t have a passion or at least a liking for what you do, then why dedicate the extra time to improve your skills? After a long day of work, school, whatever, going home and sitting down to get through an online course on responsive web design doesn’t sound so appealing, but it’s something I’ve managed to push myself to do. There really are not short cuts, at least not until they develop a way to absorb information from books through osmosis.

1.) Google – In doubt? Google it.

3.) Aquent Gymnaisum – This one is geared towards more advanced designers, but can still be a great learning experience for the adventerous or ambitious student.

2.) CodeAcademy – This site is a great place to start learning the basics of programming and web development languages.

4.) Skillshare – While this one isn’t free, almost every course is under $20. Courses range from design to fashion, development and even beauty.

“One of the best things about these online resources is that they’re usually a go at your own speed kind of thing. With self-learning, not only are you learning a new skill that applies to your industry (or maybe it doesnt!), but you’re teaching yourself self-discipline and self-motivation. That, and contrary to traditional continuing education courses, you can often use online resources anywhere. So go ahead, sit in your local coffeeshop and get inspired.”

But there are tons of resources, and many of them are free. For the last year or so I’ve signed up for about seven different classes on Skillshare, ranging from WordPress basics to how to build a brand. Once you’ve enrolled in the class you’ve got that information and its resources forever. Looking to start learning some code? CodeAcademy has got you covered, and it’s free. What’s better than free? Cupcakes and puppies, but they’re not free.

And maybe, just maybe, there’s a stroke of boredom.

There will always be some things I could do in my sleep, and there are others I would rather sleep than do. I’ll never know everything about design, and that, right there, is an instant boredom-killer. To stay motivated, inspiration and learning are going to get you through. Looking for a place to start to learn something new? Let me Google that for you.

Why keep learning?

Brains are like dogs, most need excersize daily. And what’s the best way? Learning! Whether it’s something as small (and delicious) as successfully baking a cake, or complex as a scary long math problem, it’s something and it’s in the right direction.

“Don’t get too comfortable. Just because you’ve mastered this skill, doesn’t mean it’ll stick around. Be flexible and get ready to learn the next thing as it comes.” It wasn’t that long ago that we were designing and developing mobile-only pages. Then responsive came along, and we were designing desktop-first. Now we’re moving towards mobile-first design as more and more users are using their mobile devices to access the internet than their desktops.

But where, and how, do I start?

What have you always wanted to learn, but used the age old excuse of ‘I just don’t have the time’? With self-paced courses, comes the flexibility and end of the excuse. What are you curious about? Do you think you might like back end development but don’t want to enroll in a local college, take the time to try it out online, for free, before paying only to find you should’ve just stuck to graphic design.

Lessons Learned  
Lessons Learned