OK, so in Part I, we talked about what it takes to develop the core skill of a web designer — and it is a skill, not something you ‘either have or you don’t.’ But even once you’ve managed to develop your personal reserve of practical creativity, you still need some fundamentals in order to make the jump into actual web design. Here’s where we talk about that.
Step 1: Draw. Like, Constantly.
Much like an architect draws out plans for a house before a contractor touches a hammer or starts up a backhoe, a web designer should draw out plans for a webpage before he cracks open the coding window even a little. But you don’t have to draw web pages; you can draw just about anything — as long as you also draw web pages from time to time. The important part is getting comfortable with the practice of putting a pen to a paper and creating something.
Step 2: Master the Grid
Taking the time to really wrap your mind around The Grid is a huge shortcut to creating aesthetically-pleasing and functional websites. The grid is the framework upon which all of your other design principles hang. With it, you can create harmony and balance — without it, well, you still can create harmony and balance, it’s just a lot less likely to happen automatically.
Step 3: Read This Book
“The Principles of Two-Dimensional Design” is the quick-and-dirty guide to designing anything flat, i.e. webpages, flyers, newspaper layouts, and so on. Reading this book will teach you how to:
- Utilize symmetry and asymmetry
- Control the focal point of a page
- Use biologically-programmed mental habits like the Golden Ratio and how skimming works to design a document that makes intuitive sense to the consumer
- And dozens of other techniques vital to designing a webpage.
Step 4: Learn Your Typography
Typography is one of the more difficult parts of design, simply because there’s an enormous difference between what we intuitively see as ‘cool’ and what is actually effective at building trust between a reader and the website. Papyrus, for example, is amazing for movie titles — but it’s crap for coming across as an authority. But that’s just the beginning — there are enormous psychological effects you can get just by switching between serif and sans-serif, or changing the spacing between letters. This is a solid ‘complete newbie’s primer,’ but you really should pursue deeper, more complex sources on typography if you intend to become the next great Sioux Falls web designer.
Step 5: Grok Color Theory
Every color has a dozen different potential connotations depending on a variety of factors. Green, for example, is associated with healthy, lively, and organic food — unless your food is red meat, which immediately turns it into spoilage and grossness. Learning not just the basics of color theory, but how each client’s specific audience is likely to associate colors is a crucial part of becoming a web designer. Also, while you’re at it, learn the color systems (i.e. CMYK, RGB, and several others.)
That’s not quite the end of it — but it’s the end for now. There’s one more one the way — keep an eye out!