Formally Educated or Self-Taught?
March 23, 2006 at 5:04 PM
Here’s a short, informal poll here at Digital Web Magazine. How did you become a Web designer? Are you formally educated or self taught? If you’re formally educated, did your formal training prepare you for life as a designer? Do tell.
I became a web designer as an outgrowth of a hobby started in 1996. I sat computer science and software engineering, which prepared me well for some of the web dev work I do but didn't really do much for the design side of things (though it did with AJAX and DOM stuff). All the good stuff has been "self" taught (books and design blogs).
Not that I'm a designer, but when it comes to the Web (and computers in general) I'm completely self-taught. The closest I got in college was a minor in AI, and that was concentrated on the philosophical side of the subject.
I wouldn't say I'm a designer, but I'm definetely self taught, driven by business need.
Completely self-taught. Very few schools can actually (or even seem to think they need to) keep up with the pace of web development.
I've done both. Started off as an 'apprentice' I guess, at the coalface. Then recently graduated from uni, which I did (at night) to 'formalise' my experience. I wouldn't swap my apprenticeship for anything. There's no way a Masters degree could have prepared me for what it's like in the 'real world'. Much as I *love* academia :)
Self-taught; I just "messed" around with things.
Self-taught. Of all the programmers as well as art directors and designer's I've met it does seem like going to school for these subjects is more of a hindrance than an advantage. Thing is, schools can easily fall into the practise of teaching bad habits - usually because the professor is not keeping up-to-date with the most modern methods. It is a relief to see that some of the most respected people I consider my peers are also self-taught.
Slef-taught when it comes to the web part, but studied design as a general discipline at uni. Whilst I agree with Jonathan's comment on courses struggling to keep up with the pace of change in web development, I think foundations in graphic design, layout, information design, colour theory, typography etc. are applicable in the long run. Many concepts laid down decades ago are just as relevant today. But no course compares to getting your hands dirty and learning on the job!
I took a three day class in HTML eight years ago and have since have been self taught in strictly web. My major as computer science, thought never directly taught me to do web development, has helped me develop skills and knowledge that in turn helps me comperhend better web development. Also, I have been lucky enough in the recent years to be able to pick the minds of several graphic designers.
I trained as a traditional graphic designer, and moved on to web a year or 2 after college. Inspired by Flash 4! Never looked back. I notice I struggle with the formally trained web coders though, I get frustrated becasue their design sucks and they get frustrated because I dont code.
What up all A bit of both. Formally studied programming then realized it was not entirely my cup of tea. Began to focus more and more on knowledge work or info-preneuring as some call it. Heck of a lot of fun, but very tough. There aint many around that
Self-taught. Back when I started to learn about the Web there was no way to do so in school---now I think the schools are probably still a few years behind as far as the latest things like Ajax and the W3C DOM are concerned. I do sometimes wish I had more formal training in programming or in design, but I muddle through.
Bit of both I guess but the only things I actually learned through the academic process was some basic use of Flash and XML. Other than that I'd consider myself self-taught. I don't think schools can't keep up with development. The problem is lack of interest and the goal of teaching more global knowledge rather than every new gizmo that comes along and fades away in 2 years.
Self-taught. Went to a couple introductory html, photoshop, and flash classes - and used the internet and bookstore ever since. My informal education has always centered around gaining more freedom to do the things I want to do. First I wanted to do the crazy all flash sites. But I needed design skills, then found I needed to know of HTML, then CSS, and then I wanted to content manage my sites, databases, programming language, and goes on and on. And the beauty is almost everything we need to know is right here on the web, just a search term away. Got to love it.
Formally educated since 1995. It did. :)
Entirely self-taught (I was making a movie, decided we needed a website, went out and bought a "Teach Yourself HTML" book, the rest is history). That was 7 years ago.
I started out with various qualifications in product design, industrial design and electronic media. In the last year of my degree course, I was hired by a design firm to head up their multimedia department. Web design was very, very new at this point and money being charged was ridiculous. I saw the potential of the web as a marketing tool and gradually moved further and further into the field. So to answer the question: yes, I am self-taught as a web developer, although I have a design discipline background...
Like many developers I'm a self taught HTML writer. My interest in usability and interaction design was also self started and nurtured by many of the web design and interaction design blogs around the time of 2002 - 2003. I became so interested in usability that I got a masters in human computer interaction, which was more academic training than practical design training. Still, it gave me accreditation and a greater appreciation for more scientific research.
Self taught really. I've got a degree in Applied Computer Technology that taught me very little of anything (but tried everything). In fact the bit of HTML they did teach, I already knew. I wish I'd done graphic design or something looking back, but I always wanted to work with computers and I didn't really discover any of my design skills until relatively late on. I would still like to explore the design elements formally at some point.
Self-taught - started in '96, instead of practicing my instrument (was a music ed major). Only recently did I go through something formal to get a degree in Visual Communication, but the web portion didn't teach me anything I didn't already know.
I am self taught. Prior to entering the Web world in 1998 I was a full time Studio Potter, so defining user experience was what I did just with obgects not interfaces. This has been very useful transitioning to developing interfaces as user experiences principles remain the same. ~pk
Got a BFA in Design, but that was all traditional (print) techniques. My web design skills (coding, etc.) is all self-taught.
I started out in general IT, in particular with databases. I found that web design had just the perfect mix of programming, database and visual design to keep me interested.
Self-taught. Learned mostly from books, messing about, looking at source code, and online tutorials, forums, etc.
I'm self-taught as well. I started playing around with Web sites back in '96 while in college by hand-coding. I've fluttered back and forth between a WYSIWYG editor like Dreamweaver and straight coding. My passion for the Web came from my business degree in marketing. I just saw the Web as the next medium and had to learn more about it. I almost got a minor in Multimedia which has helped with some of the Photoshop stuff. Unfortunately conflicts between the Com. school and Bus. school blew that away. The last four years has been huge for me in being self-taught. I've tackled, CSS, Web Standards, accssibility, design and usability all in that time frame. Still have a lot to learn though to put it all together.
Self Taught. I started by reading Sams "Teach Yourself HTML 4 in 24 Hours". I had no prior computer or programming training, rather I have a degree in classical guitar performance. Jakob Neilson's book "Designing Web Usability" was a great read as well. Dreamweaver and Flash Tutorials, along with numerous other books and magazines, forums and online tutorials have been my mentors as well. I've just never had enough money - being a musician - to afford formal training in this field.
Completely self-taught, but then I graduated (in chemical engineering) in 1994 - the year Netscape 1.0 was released! I've been building websites ever since, turning a hobby into a career along the way. Experience as an engineer helped with project management and working within multi-disciplinary teams but otherwise I have no formal training in the industry, simply because it was never available when I really needed it.
I consider myself to be self taught. Most of what I learned was done through online tutorials, code references, forums etc. I do have a Digital Media certificate from a local community collge (my degree is un-related). I don't consider that to have taught me much of anything, though. Typical bad college design program. The piece of paper did help me to get my first real job so in that sense it was beneficial.
I have completed an advertising art diploma, advanced graphic design post diploma, photography certificate, computer graphics certificate, web development certificate... that being said, although I learned many things in college, all that I know about web design is DEFINATELY self taught! It seems that classroom learning can't compare to what's going on right now in the industry. They focus on teaching the application rather than keeping up-to-date with today's web standards. Knowing how to use Dreamweaver does not make you a good designer. Many of my so-called web design classes resulted in having to teach the teacher a thing or two.
Self taught. I'll save you space--and me time--and just link you to my brief history ;-)
Formal old school graphic design and production methods (e.g. waxers, stat machines, non-photo blue pens, etc.)... Sort-of-self-taught in applying all of this online.
Self taught. I grew up in an Ad Agency my parents owned, and I've been doing design/marketing/advertising/whatever else I can for the past 9 years.
My degree is in Comp Science and Math, but as far as the web goes I'm pretty much self-taught. Some of my coursework helped towards application development, but i still have not seen an impressive curriculum for grooming new web professtionals.
Self taught as well. I had the opportunity to go to art college or to university and chose university at the time. Got started with web design around '97 (back when learning web design was accomplished by poring over source code) and learned it mostly on my own and with the help of the gurus on WD-L - that listserv was my learning lifeline. Still learning on my own for the most part and fitting in focused, specialized workshops when I can.
Self taught... "view source" taught me everything I needed to know.
While my college degree was in Computer Science, I taught myself HTML. It was very basic back then. Since I started my current job, I've taught myself more HTML, learned PHP, and am in the process of learning MySQL. For the pure design aspects, it's definitely been self teaching of CSS and usability.
Although I graduated from college with a major in "Computing & the Arts" as they called it, about 99% of the useful knowledge I learned has come on my own. I think one of the things that drives me is the fact that everyday I can teach myself something new. Working around others who share your passion is the best way to get better, but I rarely seem to get that opportunity. Personally, I do not think a formal college course can keep up with the ever-changing trends of the web. Courses like these will always teach more theory than directly applicable knowledge. This is important, but it must be supplemented with research on your own time.
Self taught. My degrees were in Communication Design and Computer Science. Lots of "view source" and endless nights basking in the glow of a warm computer. I did take web courses in college, but most of them just reiterated stuff I'd learned on my own. Yes, they did teach a web standards approach and encouraged usability and accessibility. The professor was pretty on the ball in that regard.
Self-taught since 1998, when I looked over the cubicle wall at my friend who worked on the website and asked "what's up with that stuff?" and he pointed me to webmonkey. ;) Educationally, I have a bachelor's in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. I took half of a computer course in high school, which gave me the experience of not being afraid of the damn things. Best thing I ever learned.
In 1995, as an undergraduate English Education major I took a "Resources for Teachers" class. Instead of how learning how to use a film projector, I learned how to make a webpage. Other than that, even earning a Master's in Instructional Technology,which had no technical instruction to offer, everything I have learned has been self taught.
I took one Pagemaker class after leaving the active duty Navy, which got me a job as a desktop publisher. After that, I just kept getting jobs where there was a need and I learned all I could, which led me to a better job with more needs, where I learned all I could, and so on... That class was back in 1989 and thinking back, I wouldn't change a thing.
Self taught. Started with hand coding, strayed for a few years into the heavy WYSIWYG world when Dreamweaver was still in version 1.0, then came full circle again about 3 1/2 years ago when I concentrated on hand crafted web standards based design.
Self-taught, and I actually teach web design. Code, not WYSIWYG, (X)HTML, CSS, standards, accessibility, all are required on projects. Added unobtrusive JS this time out. Although it is difficult, I try to keep up as much as possible, so I can give my students both fundamentals and best practices, and try to instill in them the idea that web design is not in the least a static practice. Believe me, I have had to force many a student to unlearn a lot of cruft.
Self-taught. I have BFA and MFA in printmaking and painting. There was no such thing as a web design class even when I was in grad school in 1996. I now teach standards-based web design in a Communication Design Department at a college in the City University of New York.
I am formally taught in programming, databases, etc, but self-taught in design and CSS/XHTML. Not that I know how to design, but I'm decent at CSS :)
I'm a self-taught, on-the-job, Web designer. I did take a summer computer class in 1986 but that was when DOS still ruled. Actually, I think it still rules. Viva La DOS!!
Completely self-taught in PHP, SQL, XHTML, CSS, Accessibility and everything I know about design and IA. Any books I've read (generally only for a small part) have usually just gotten me introduced to the matter, the real stuff came from learning while doing. I don't even have a degree or education, officially :-)
I'm almost completely self-taught. I did go to school for 4.5 years, in a web design major but as Jonathan Snook pointed out, not many schools can keep pace. The school was horrible, needless to say I quit school and now I have a decent paying job in the industry. I'm about 75% self-taught (I taught myself HTML at 15 years old, CSS, design basics, Photoshop basics) 25% I learned at my internship (mostly photoshop, and gained mucho design experience which took me to the next level, and some unecessary SEO) If only the outsiders knew how much knowledge could be gained from blogs. I own very few books about design but I read design blogs everyday. From the looks of it, it seems the majority of the designers are too cool for school.
At college, I was faced with either a programming track which offered zero classes in web languages (Ruby/Python/PHP/ASP, etc), or a design track in which Macromedia Fireworks was touted as the web design solution. Unfortunately, this also means that no matter which route I took, everything I've learned about web development would be (and has been) self taught. Since my graduation, courses have popped up for Dreamweaver and there is a single PHP class, however, those in the professional field I've talked to as an Alumni have admitted that they too are self taught.
I have a BFA in Communications Arts and Design. I learned traditional illustration, typography, and basic graphic design concepts. As soon as I graduated, I downloaded free software trials and taught mysef Flash, DreamWeaver, etc. And that was the beginning, hand-coding soon came. So, I was formally taught in design, but self-taught in web design.
Completely self taught. Ran into homestead.com in 1999 (browser based site creation) and was hooked - taught myself the basics after that and the rest is history.
Self-taught. I graduated in 1994 with a degree in Biology. I had one course in grad school where we tried to develop online lab course material and learned the basics of HTML there. Then a couple of years later I started getting into web design to do some projects for the museum I was working for. Lots of webmonkey, netscape developer pages, and the like. And of course, view source.
The line between designer and developer becomes so blurred, I'm not sure what to even call myself.. but I work almost entirely with the web. I have a BS CS, and firmly believe it gave me a solid foundation to catapult into real development in the business world. I believe a degree gives you the ability to pick up and apply new concepts and languages faster and easier using the software design principles you learn in school. I will agree that the language-specific stuff is dated on graduation day, and that without experience in the real world, your talent is highly limited. I will even openly say that four years experience in the industry teaches you more than four years in school. But from a career perspective, as well as the ability to adapt to the rapidly changing industry, having a degree is a huge chunk of ammunition for your success.
My degree was in Mechanical Engineering, but I have been involved in web/UI design & development since 1997. Self-taught. As long as one likes reading and not afraid to try new things... who cares ;)
While my formal training in Computer Science does help, as far as Web stuff goes I'm almost 100% self taught. Theory and history are a good foundation, but practice and pragmatism are critical to developing a skill set.
In 1996, Aol
Disclaimer: Meryl is by no means a designer nor does she have an eye for it. I'm mostly self-taught and then I found out about an online program for a certificate in Internet Technologies about 5 years after I met HTML for the first time and I completed it. I love taking classes and plan to work on a masters, but not in anything related to design.
I also don't consider myself a designer. I am 100% self-taught. I did consider going back to school for a formal degree in web design, but I quickly realized that there was little to no new information that would have provided for me. Even worse, the information that was being taught in the classes was either out dated or simply incorrect (i.e. showing people how to build sites only in a WYSIWYG editor, showing people how to use Flash but not how to build in XHTML and use CSS for layout, muchless IA or accessibility).
I tend to think of myself as an experience creator first, and a design/programmer second. I am a web designer by necessity when called to be so, because that's what people assume "interactive" means these days. I did go to school for computer engineering and interactive design, and studied HCI / Usability in the context of engineering software. However, a lot of what I practice now is based on stuff I learned in the course of pursuing my thesis projects, which were themselves extensions of things I had started to learn prior to college. I ultimately didn't learn all that much through the classwork, but I was exposed to important ideas that I might not have otherwise learned about in focusing on specific technologies.
Alongside many others, I also don't consider myself as primarily a designer. I am currently studying for a degree (BSc Web Technologies), and have learnt a few new things (I'm just coming to the end of my first year). However, having been building websites for almost ten years, I have known most of the content so far. There is a lot of theory to come though, and not all based around the Web specifically (for example, HCI), so I do expect to come out at the end having improved my all-roud knowledge. On the practical side though, I'd still guess that I'll be mostly self-taught.
I'm a developer, and self-taught after doing a non-computing degree, although I did do a short AI course whilst in academia. I started in the web when a client wanted a website and I used the NCSA 'how to write HTML' guide, back around late 1995, though I haven't done only web stuff since. If a degree / course has transferable skills, I think they can be a great help, but in many courses there isn't a great deal of difference between book/web learning and being taught by a poor lecturer. Really, most of a degree is putting the book and practical work in, if you're working from home all that's missing is the results getting marked by a lecturer (you could say the client does that, but that's not entirely true for development, where a shoddy system can seem to work fine.) If you want to learn the latest and greatest tech, a university is a great place to investigate it in your own time around people with the same interests as you have. You can't expect a three year academic course to keep up with an industry as new and fast moving as the web is. Once the industry has settled down a bit, then academic courses will catch up.
Self taught. In the mid-nineties I was in my mid-thirties, and had just completed my masters in creative writing. Didn?t know where to go from there. I was a near Luddite at the time, had heard of the Web but hadn?t experienced it and wasn?t particularly eager to. Work required that I take a four-week workshop on Windows 3.0, which culminated with a visit to the Web. We started out on a Web site called Yahoo, which was describe to the class as something known as a search engine. I typed in Ireland (in those days you didn?t need to scroll to see all of the returns), and selected the Irish Times Web site. Suddenly in front of me, a Web cam snap shot of O?Connell Street Bridge, which I have crossed hundreds of times in my life. Tiny pedestrians crossing the bridge ? those could be people I know. That?s when the penny dropped, as the Irish would say. In an instant I got the Web. Time and space were reordered. This was bigger than anything else technologically that had happened during my life. Then I knew where I was going to go. Bought my first computer and Laura Lemay?s book on HTML.
I started self taught in 98. Then in 2002 i wasted a load of money on a "webdesigner" course consisting of 3 Macromedia tools wich i knew well. Big mistake. Then i got the chance of a free 3 month course based on CIW program (it was their manuals) wich taught me a bit about things i was missing in webdevelopment precess. I knew how to design a site, but had no metodology or workflow, so this course really helped. Part of it war programming: Asp & Sql. I hated it and retained nothing. In the future i plan some courses, but if they are money worth. Nowadays i read blogs, print some e-books and that
Being a web monkey since the mid 90s pretty much sucked me into wide range of internet activity. Although I was doing my CS degree, I started to do webdev (self-thought) professionally on the side, to cover some of my expenses. I had no intentions (and to some degree I still do not) in doing webdev as a career. However, when I graduated it was pretty much the only hands-on experience I had to show for. So I did step into this field for the time being. I am now trying to migrate into research based positions and perhaps teaching.
Completely self taught but not hand coding. Started out with a cheap graphics package and an old version of Netscape editor back in the early 90's, also used Sausage software's hotdog for a while until I got hold of Dreamweaver. From there progressed through the DW versions and am now using DW8 and PhotoShop CS2. I learned everything from books and the Internet and since about 2002 have gotten into standards based design. I have a background in Fine Art which I find very helpful as a designer.
Self taught, I went to a Multimedia institue and they taught me the basics of how to use the tools. It was completely useless. Learnt everything from Books, community and Blogs.
In this ever changing web landscape even with formal training you have to keep educating yourself. In this view any formal training is outdated as soon as you sit down in the class room. Coming form a technical background with development jobs in small and big companies I have found that using standards make life a lot easier. I have taken over so many times from developers using their unique own approach that using standards is the only way of survival in handing down work to the next poor soul in your position. In the Web World this is also true. The only way to have your work understood by the next in line aka the browser is to supply standards based work. When I started out in web development there was no real training in this area and so I started educating myself. And to this day I still am and in the future I will always be educating myself.
After having followed formal training (for a year) at a media/design school in the Netherlands I found myself in great need of self-teaching to build the skills that I really needed to become a web developer. They schooled me in the printing process, english, marketing, sysadmininstration a little graphic design and even gymnastics. They taught me a bit of everything but they never taught me to write code on that school. So then I quit school and just started building websites, and slowly got more and more skilled doing it. The morale: 8 years ago, here in the Netherlands no training (as in school) was available for the specific job of web developer.
Both. My original degree is in Literature and Japanese, which would have prepared me for a wonderful career as a bartender or Starbucks. But, luckily I fell in love with the web and went back to school to study design, programming and systems administration and am just about done with my master's in Internet Systems Development (once I finish my freaking dissertation). Although I have gone formal education route (in the hopes to some day teach web development), I have found that I have actually learned more on my own through experimentation and actual on the job training. Nothing will make you learn faster than a looming deadline and long list of impossible requirements.
I am designing in web, but I am not coding. With my graphic design background I first have been working only in print. In 2000 I did a 6-month web design course (html, flash) and years later a class in introduction to css. These courses were only technically orientated, design was not an issue. My print design skills helped me to design also in web. Nevertheless, self-teaching is important in the sense to be always up-to-date about latest technical and design issues. Information you get in a class can only provide you with basic knowledge. It
Self taught. Thank you, Webmonkey!
Formally educated in programming for my CS degree, but that did pretty much nothing to help me learn web coding. The only thing it taught me was understanding how coding language functions worked, and that translated over to things like PHP easily. So all of my useful knowledge of web development (I'm not a designer/artist by any means) has been self-taught from online tutorials, forums, articles, and books.
I am completely self-taught. I do have a degree, but it is in English and Drama! Although, in the beginning that probably didn't help much, now I'm working in User Experience Design and Information Architecture it does have more relevance. I fell into web design as an extension of an interest in computers, the internet and MUDing in 1995. In NZ this stuff was amazing - contact with the outside world! I was at the end of my degree and web design looked like a good way to take a much needed break from that. HTML for Dummies got me started and it's gone from there. Over the last 10 years learning from colleagues, books and websites has kept me up to date.
Self taught and stil learning.
I'm totally self-taught. My Wife's a graphic designer who got minimal experience on web design during her graphic design course and about two years ago we decided to quit our jobs and start up on our own. At this stage we decided we needed to offer web services and it made sense for me to habdle that side of things. We got ourselves a copy of Studio MX2004 and away we went, starting with Macromedia's 'Training from the Source' books, moving onto 'Designing with Web Standards' and of course 'Eric Meyer on CSS' and the followup. I've since read a few other standards, accessibility and CSS related books and have from the start, kept a tight focus on designing my sites to W3C specs and working on accessibility etc. My Wife does most of the graphic design and leaves the coding etc to me. I'm about to start learning PHP/MySQL and have also ordered 'DOM Scripting' as its becoming more and more obvious that we're not going too much further without moving into dynamic, e-commerce sites etc. I think the best thing I've found with entering into web design is the community - everyone's here, online, helping each other and its a rare thing you're on your own without at least some suggestions to a problem. Its made self-teaching and operating a businessa a lot easier.
Chalk another one up for the 'self taught' crew. I went to a 2 year college and took graphic design classes. So I learned the basics of visual design there. I took one "web" class there. Lol. They taught us how to use fireworks to make a website. Then I went to the library and got as many html books as I could find. Did one website in tables when someone told me about css. So, now I design and build websites all with css and if they told me to build it with tables I might be a little lost. Although I could figure it out if I had to.
Mostly self taught, started with a degree in Maths. 'Mazing how so many people still think that you need to be good at Math to understand computers. Have done a brief course on Web development via a Uni, but still need to teach myself all the new stuff, via all those great resources out there. Yea the internet has been my main tutor.
Formal Education. I guess when it comes to design I am as old school as it gets. I have formal design education in traditional media going back more than 25 years. Unlike some of my counterparts I have continued to supplement my education at local schools and online for web, and other digital Medias. Part of a formal education is the knowledge that design is a very subjective thing and that certain elements in visual communication are bound to human perception. It always amazes me when I get called from a client to fix a project
I'm a civil engineer, but gravitated toward mapping/GIS and computers in my first job.. My boss asked me to look into this "Internet thing" for a new SBA-funded project coming up, and I was self-taught from there. Started out with NetObjects Fusion on a Mac. Talk about some UGLY HTML!
Completely self taught. After 13 years as an auto mechanic, I landed a job working on a help desk (don't ask me how). When they advertised within the company for a web master I figured, why not, the worst they can do is say no. Well, They hired me and gave me an intranet they had built by an outside design firm in ASP. I bought books and studied what code existed. Still wouldn't call myself a designer or developer, but I get by.
Self taught. I have BA in journalism and political science and are mostly a content guy. But I also do some webdesign. I learnt CSS by community, books and some internal courses where used to work before. The first introduction to css was put into my head in 1998 by H
Self taught. I've been in the military for the past 19 years and raising a family!!! No time for school---But something happened in 1995. We bought our first computer. I've been hooked ever since. A friend of ours had made a website in 1999 and was so proud of it! Now it looked terrible, but I thought it was the neatest thing!!! So I set out to figure out a way to make one myself. I found Homestead sitebuilder, opened an account and made one (drag and drop style)! Wow! Until my bubble was burst and homestead stopped the free site business. So then I went on to a Geo Cities site. That one went kaput. Finally my husband felt bad and bought me a domain name. I had no idea how to load stuff to it, or how to even read HTML, nevermind put up a site. Well, that was it. I put my nose to the grindstone and read everything I could for 3 weeks, and put my site online. I read a kids HTML site and learned more than I would've sitting in a semester of classes. I'm still learning. That's the thing about it, this has taught me that I can still learn, and still want to. I'm not an official "designer" yet (notice how I said official), but after 6 years of this I'm on my way.