February 24, 2017

Front-End Design/Development: A Career Path for Graphic Designers

Written by Ashley Helminiak

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Recently, Haley and I (the front-end design/development team here at Rapid) had the opportunity to travel to our alma mater Ferris State University to talk to the students in the graphic design program. We presented to the sophomores students that had just recently learned to code functional prototypes with HTML and CSS. We shared what we do at Rapid and helped show how front-end design and development can a possible career path students can take after graduating with a design degree.

After finishing presentations to the sophomore classes, we went to the junior and senior classes to check out the projects they were working on and answer questions they had for us. The projects at Ferris gain added complexity each year, with the senior year taking on real life client projects. Most projects in the last two years of the program include some type of web design and possible development. In fact, there wasn’t a single client project in the senior class that didn’t involve web, whether it was an integrated component or the entire project. 

One of the main points we wanted to drive home for the Ferris students was that being a front-end web designer and developer means to have a foot in both worlds. We are always trying to keep up with design trends as well as learning ever-changing code techniques. This, while being key for people more in the development world, is still a good practice for anyone who designs for web, whether they touch the code part of the project or not.

Designing for the Digital Realm

For designers, it can be sometimes be difficult to switch gears from creative design to coding. Each uses different sides of the brain and requires different types of focus. While this can be a challenge and isn’t for everyone, it’s important that designers wrap their head around basic development skills and have working knowledge of functional possibilities in web, app, and other digital design. Digital experiences are more and more common, either in conjunction with or replacement of print experiences. Today, it’s tougher to find a quality, sustainable design position that doesn’t touch the digital realm in some way. 

So designers, get comfortable with understanding code and the way it works. You’ll be much better off, I promise you. If code is something you struggle with, there are plenty of tools online for you to work with, such as Lynda, Codecademy, Treehouse, Code School, Udacity, and many others that cater to different coding languages and styles of learning. Your best bet to get comfortable with coding? Just keep doing it. Over time it becomes familiar, and before you know it you’re coding without even thinking about it. I often brush up on languages I don’t know as well and familiarize myself with new ones using these tools.

Final Thoughts

While there are many different career paths designers may take, web design and front-end development can be useful to learn if you want to get a good start in the industry. Being able to show UX/UI skills and a solid understanding of digital design could be what sets you apart from other candidates. So whether you pursue a career in development or another area of design, try to have an understanding of what’s possible with code today: chances are it will apply at some point in your design career.

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