I graduated from the University of California San Diego in 2005. After graduating I was smacked in the face with the realization that I was inexperienced at designing and coding websites. Compared to the average person I had a moderate amount of talent, but compared to my employment competition I was obviously in the lower percentile. How did I realize this? It might have been while I worked at Sea World taking pictures of tourists for $8.50 an hour, or it could have been while working at 2am in the morning on friends websites (instead of working on websites for a living). Perhaps it was the kind interviewer that allowed me to just sit and ask her questions about my portfolio and what needed improvement. She had said my resume and portfolio showed I was too “green” for the job, meaning I wasn’t experienced enough.

It’s now 2010, I work in Los Angeles for an “interactive media agency”, and I can finally say with some measure of certainty: “My name is Matthew Booth, and I am a professional”. Yes it took me 5 years, I might have technically been a professional prior to this year, but now I actually feel like it. In keeping with the post topic let me answer the question:

What do Professional Designers Design?

The two images that I link to in this post are for Online Health Insurance which is a website that I both design for and develop (code) for. It might not seem like the most glamorous design job. Usually designers want to be some sort of rogue artist getting contracts with Nike for some hip, modern print ad. Well, I can tell you that it is actually a lot of fun if you focus on the requirements of any design/development job, which are:

  • think abstractly while meeting requirements and critique of non-designer/non-developer management
  • design within the expectations of your target audience (old people will be attracted to different designs than 20-somethings)
  • Either create a brand identity that must be adhered to, or remain within the guidelines of current branding

Let me give you some advice regarding bullet #1 above. Even though management typically do not have programming or design backgrounds, they do have valuable input into what is usable and what either “looks good/amazing/almost right” and they can usually tell you “this is confusing/hard to use/easy to use”. I frequently read designers and developers complaints and whining about “know-it-all” clients and erroneous input from non-designers/developers. Usually they feel they know more and should be left alone to do whatever they deem necessary. If you want to be professional, you have to learn to welcome and seek out criticisms and opinions from a wide range of backgrounds. After designing and coding for over 6 years, each critique still hurts my ego and I have to fight the urge to reject the input on account of feeling attacked. However, I find that by incorporating these critiques into design versions, I am usually more pleased with the final result. Oddly enough, I seem to hit the “right” design by the third draft.

Over time, the more you design, the easier it is to have direction during the “inspiration phase”. This is the part of my design that involves sifting through stock photos, viewing other designs, and semi-randomly putting stuff into a Photoshop file.

So if you want to be a professional designer/coder, just know that it’s not always the glitz and glam you see on design sites and magazines. However, you can still create designs and websites that are satisfying and challenging within the confines of whatever industry you are in.

In my opinion, any day on a computer, listening to music and making a website is better than the same day working on anything else.

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