Getting Web Design Schooled

Designers have lots of different kinds of styles. Im not a designer who puts on headphones and is content to zone out over a photoshop doc for hours. I am one of those designers who thrives on constant human interaction and feeds off verbal bursts of passionate brainstorming. I LOVE people. I LOVE people who LOVE design . I especially LOVE people who LOVE to talk about design and typography. Oh goodness, that is the trifecta I get really stoked about.

CDIA Boston UniversityWhen CDIA at Boston University asked me about teaching a web design class at their campus in Georgetown, I had no hesitation in replying with an overwhelming “absolutely”. Hanging out with PEOPLE  passionately perusing a career in the design field?  That is a no brainer for me.

Well, of course my first class was more than hanging out, it was a fantastic experience that has reinvigorated my love of the creative web industry. The students who greeted me  were already deeply entrenched in the design program. Before starting web design  at CDIA students complete a very extensive graphic design curriculum, making them both knowledgeable and excited about  typography, layout, and some design history. The enthusiasm that greeted me was an unexpected but delightful surprise, I found them inquiring  about the typefaces  and talking about their favorite fonts amongst each other. Hell yeah, the trifecta!

Since completing the class many people have asked me about it, and in short all I can say is that I LOVED it. There is a lot more to that, here are my 3 take-aways from my first teaching experience:

1) Teaching is really inspiring. Even though it makes me a lot more busy going to class and planning class, it is also a huge motivator to get off my ass and design more. I left each class with tons of fresh ideas and perspectives brought up by the students and all I want to do now is design MORE and better. Each class was a invigorating discussion and brainstorm, the kind that you leave and you say to yourself, “damn that is better than (insert your favorite vice here)“. Thats right folks, Web Design school is better than ________. THAT good.

2) Teaching web design is 100% dependent on practicing web design.  Towards the end of class students filled out wufoo feedback surveys that I created, and it was interesting to find that there was a lot of  value added to the content of the class by explaining concepts in real-life context. The class  was predominantly structured around the design process, starting with research and user experience and then going in to visual design and brand, and ending with front-end development and build-out. The entire time we followed that process through an actual Viget project to put all of the steps in context to a real world situation. It proved to be very helpful. In addition to my previous example the web design industry is constantly changing, hell… if I skip my feed reader for a day I fall behind, so its hard to imagine what it would be like without actually being in the field.

3) Education in the web design field is evolving. When making my initial transition from print design to web design, a program like this one did not exist (that I knew of in the DC area) so I learned from my peers, blogs, books,  and trial and error ( don’t forget that I am still learning ). Many things I learned the hard /long way,  but I can  skip  a lot of the  crap and just teach the most effective stuff to my students.  Essentially they had a road map that many practicing web designers did not have in their learning process, so watching how quickly they picked things up that took me a while to learn was really gratifying.

Overall the experience was so positive I had to write a blog post about it. I appreciate the opportunity CDIA gave me, but also the enthusiasm that my students have. Sometimes when you stare at a computer screen day in and day out, and rely on twitter and CSS galleries as your main form of inspiration, you get stuck in a tunnel. You forget that rush of excitement you had as a student learning new skills, striving for those big ideas, and the feeling of loving design so much that you will go to great lengths to be able to actually make a living at it. Its an amazing thing to be a web designer and I open my eyes every morning  and think to myself, “Wow, I get to be a designer today, and not just any designer… a WEB designer. That is Bad Ass.”


  1. — September 5, 2008

  2. — September 10, 2008

  3. — September 11, 2008