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  1. #1
    SitePoint Enthusiast Sean Maisch's Avatar
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    Unhappy Worried about interest / career in web design, advice?

    I'm a 17 year old male (going to be 18 on the 8th of this month) and I'm having mixed feelings about doing web design as a career. I have been creating websites since I was around 11 or 12. I have always been self-taught by reading tutorials, viewing sources, and experimentation. I guess a simplier way of putting it is that I have had no formal education.

    This coming September, I will be attending Savannah College of Art and Design and I'm interested in a career as a web designer. However, I have been thinking really hard about if it's the right thing or not. I find that it's very demanding to keep up with everything. When I think about all that I might need to know (PHP, CSS, HTML, XML, ActionScript, etc), I start to panic.

    I really enjoy creating these sites, but sometimes I fear that I will never become as good as many designers today. I love designing sites, but I've had a designer's block for quite some time now. I just can't find a layout that is acceptable. I find it hard to come up with something new and unique. All the layouts seem to be very similar these days.

    I have four years of college ahead and I can't stop asking myself questions like:
    • "Do web design firms have people who specialize in one thing or lots of people who specialize in everything?"
    • "Should I work in a firm or should I own one? Which will be more valuable?"
    • "Will my work be appreciated?"
    • ...etc


    Whenever I start having doubts about my talent and future, I tell myself that I have had no formal training or education in any of this, I'm only 17 years old, and for my age, I'm advanced. But I still feel pressured with the decision of choosing the wrong career.

    I was hoping that maybe some of you who have been in similar situations could offer some advice or words of wisdom. If you'd like to see some of the stuff I've done to better evaluate where I am, feel free to ask. I apologize if some of this is incoherent, it's 2:32AM here and I can't get this off my mind. I tossed and turned in bed a couple nights ago for about an hour worrying.
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  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard mark_W's Avatar
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    Hey,

    I had a look at some of the stuff in your portfolio and its pretty good!

    The only thing I can really say is if you enjoy making sites like you say you do then go for it and choose it as a career. When I first started working it was excellent to get any to do with computers as they are what I love and to go to work everyday doing something that you truely like doing is excellent. There are people all around you moaning about work but you dont care, its what you love.

    You should embrace all the technologies you need to learn and accept the challenge, once you pick them up it will further add to your enjoyment of web design. I think every now and again every designer gets some sort of mental block where they feel they are not creating 'special work', just take a break and forget about it a bit.

    If you are trying to design and worrying if its actually what you want to do its not going to help you do good work. Chill out at a bit, take a break. Come back and do a masterpiece and you will see that doing what you love can be the career for you.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard Lil_Red's Avatar
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    Have you thought about delaying college while you decide if this is the course you want to pursue?

  4. #4
    _ silver trophy ses5909's Avatar
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    Hey Sean. I think you are doing just fine and I think going to SCAD is going to be an awesome opportunity and you should definitely embrace it.

    "Do web design firms have people who specialize in one thing or lots of people who specialize in everything?" Alot of web design firms do have people that specialize in design or programming. But don't only consider a web design firm. You could go to a marketing firm, you could work for an Auto-parts chain managing their graphics and website. There are a ton of possibilities out there. You could end up starting your own web design practice, and if you don't get the hang of php or flash, you can outsource it. Alot of people on sitepoint do this.

    "Should I work in a firm or should I own one? Which will be more valuable?" both would definitely give you different learning experiences. Why not do both. It's always good to work for someone at some point in time just to get a feel for it and see if it's right for you. Plus you will learn other things. That being said, if you just want to start working for yourself, go for it!

    "Will my work be appreciated?" well, don't expect appreciation. Typically being paid is how we know our work was appreciated. You won't have anyone patting you on your back.

    Also, when you get to SCAD, sit down and talk with the advisors. You may not choose the web design route. They have a lot of other majors that deal with graphic design and you obviously have the skill needed. I know it's probably scary just leaving everything you know for the unknown, but the experience will be what you make of it...so make it a great one! You'll love Savannah.
    Sara

  5. #5
    SitePoint Guru Marubozo's Avatar
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    Just having a graphic and design background in general opens your doors to almost countless career opportunities. In the event that actual web design is not your thing, the experience you will gain at SCAD will prepare you for many related design positions. So IMO, just getting that experience in design, regardless of what specialization it is in, will help tremendously.

    My degree is in landscape architecture, which is where I learned all of my design. From pen and paper, marker renderings, watercolor, CAD, Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, etc... I have a good background in all of this, yet, I'm not a landscape architect But, the skills I obtained and the sense of design I learned over those years has helped in many other ways, even if it wasn't the career path I originally had in mind

  6. #6
    SitePoint Addict bcr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Maisch
    I really enjoy creating these sites, but sometimes I fear that I will never become as good as many designers today. I love designing sites, but I've had a designer's block for quite some time now. I just can't find a layout that is acceptable. I find it hard to come up with something new and unique. All the layouts seem to be very similar these days.
    There will always be designers and developers out there who know more than you. You can't think like that, you just have to go along and learn at your own pace, and feel comfortable with what you know.

    You wonít have designers block for the rest of your life. If you do attend college, there will be a million different experiences which will spark an idea. A change of scenery and/or a new experience is always the best cure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Maisch
    But I still feel pressured with the decision of choosing the wrong career.
    I'm sure everyone has had those feelings. I think the best option would be to try and work in a few different fields (even if itís just part time to get some extra cash) to see if you really enjoy the design field enough to pursue a career in it.

  7. #7
    SitePoint Guru DCS's Avatar
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    You are a teenager, you should be enjoying life right now not stressing over a career choice. I earned a degree (not design related) worked for years and at 35 started a second career doing freelance web design. I am now 42 and in my 7th year doing design, making 3 times the money I was before, my wife is 40 and will be entering grad school next year, she has children older than you and is embarking on a new career so my point is don't stress so much it's not the end of the world.

  8. #8
    SitePoint Wizard Dean C's Avatar
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    I'm going to be brutally honest with you here so please don't take it personally. At the moment the web-market is extremely saturated. You have literally thousands if not millions of wannabe web-designers on the scene right now. I took a quick glance at the graphical work in your profile and whilst it's not bad at all, I have seen designers who have been around for about 2 years create much better work of the highest standard. Unfortunately judging by your portfolio if after 7 years that is the cumulative talent you have then I don't think it's going to get you far.

    My opinion is one of many which I'm sure you'll encounter in this thread. I wish you the best of luck with your future endeavours

  9. #9
    SitePoint Wizard Dean C's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCS
    You are a teenager, you should be enjoying life right now not stressing over a career choice. I earned a degree (not design related) worked for years and at 35 started a second career doing freelance web design. I am now 42 and in my 7th year doing design, making 3 times the money I was before, my wife is 40 and will be entering grad school next year, she has children older than you and is embarking on a new career so my point is don't stress so much it's not the end of the world.
    If only it was that easy. You see where I'm from the UK, as soon as you take your final exams in school when you are 16 you have already limited your career choice. Then you do it again when you go to college (16-18) by only choosing 4/5 subjects (90% choose 4 subjects as 5 is too much). As soon as you pick those 4 subjects you've ruled out most careers. For example, I did computing, maths, psychology and business in my first year at college. If I applied to university to do an architecture course I wouldn't even get an interview.

    Whilst what you say is correct, as teenagers we should be out enjoying ourselves. But the reality is nowadays we're being led by the education system to make our decisions very early. I already regret mine and if I wanted to fix it I'd end up going back to college for another 2 years now. But low and behold I'm now in my final year of college and I don't want to go back and waste another two years of my life there. I want to move on with my life and progress. Two years of ones life is a lot of time.

  10. #10
    _ silver trophy ses5909's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=Dean C]Unfortunately judging by your portfolio if after 7 years that is the cumulative talent you have then I don't think it's going to get you far./QUOTE]

    He is going to one of the best art and design schools in the states. He will only improve.
    Sara

  11. #11
    SitePoint Enthusiast Sean Maisch's Avatar
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    Thank you very much Sara, you flatter me.

    Dean C, there's always this thing in the back of my head that says the exact same thing you're saying now. But to counter this "ideology," I know that these people who have been around for two years are much older and probably did some form of design before web design. Hell, even if they didn't, there are always people out there that will be more talented than others without even trying. I know that I will be able to find clients because the firm I'm working under currently has work for me consistantly.

    Also, since I finished my portfolio, I designed a CSS web standards page using Wordpress as a CMS for a client. The content is not prepared, so unfortunately I cannot link to it yet.

    I think I need to take a break from designing layouts because I've somewhat plateau-ed for now. I can't come up with much else layout-wise. I have been doing a lot of vectors and logos and I'm having fun.
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  12. #12
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    No one knows where life can take you. Go to college and start learning. You may discover it's what you want to do, you may discover it's not. More important, keep an open mind towards taking all sorts of different classes while you are there. Art schools offer everything from animation, to programming, to design, to film, photography and more. Experiment, see what turns you on. One thing I've learned over the years is that life can bring you around full circle. What you are doing now, or what you were doing five years ago can have a profound effect on what you may do 10 or 15 years down the line. I've been working at a job for 15 years that I found out years later I got because when I was interviewed I had mentioned a project I had done with a bunch of friends at 14. Go figure. All the experiences in your life will play a role in what you end up doing and most of us change careers a couple of times. So, don't sweat the details now. At 17, you should plan what you want to do in the next year, not what you think you're going to want to do the rest of your life.

  13. #13
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    At 17, you should plan what you want to do in the next year, not what you think you're going to want to do the rest of your life.
    Sadly that's not the case in my country either, you already narrow your carreer here at that age.

  14. #14
    SitePoint Zealot Zaskoda's Avatar
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    My advice in a nutshell:

    - if you enjoy it, persue it
    - have a backup plan
    - keep learning

    If you enjoy it, persue it. If you enjoy your work, you're already doing better than a whole lot of people out there. There's few things that can affect your quality of life more than enjoying your job.

    Have a backup plan. This is something my parents told me about over and over. Yet, when the market crashed in 01, I was ill prepared. I made it through, just like everyone else. We adapt and evolve.. but that's not excuse not to think ahead now. Explore other things you like and consider taking college courses in those areas... maybe even work on a second degree. The folks always recommended getting a teaching certificate - because if I couldn't find work, it's usually really easy to find a teaching position *somewhere*, even if it's temporary. I kinda wish I'da gone ahead and persued this...

    Keep learning. In my honest opinion, our work of Web browsers and HTML has an experation date. I suspect that one day, we won't need Web designers anymore. The Web is clunky and poorly designed. But, for now, it works... and there's a lot of work available. When things change, be ready to adapt and evolve. Explore the boundaries and be mindful of what direction things seem to be going. There are exciting possibilities right around the corner. Be ready for em.

    edited foward:

    I'd like to add a little more.. I've been looking at your portfolio... I like your work. Yes, there's not a lot of room for innovation in design right now unless you want to dive deep into technologies that aren't standard/well supported.

    There's a lot of room in the web industry for specialization. It looks like you should persue visual design. You should be comfortable letting coders worry about server side scripting (like php) and maybe even the HTML. It's good that you understand and grasp HTML and this can only improve an artist's ability to produce web ready work... and if you wanna do the HTML work, awesome! But there area lot of folks employed who do design and art but never touch HTML much less any server side scripting.

    There are even people who do nothing but write copy or lay out information architecture. Large scale website development generally requires a big team of people who specialize in something...

    Don't use any of that as an excuse not to keep learning. All I'm saying is you don't have to try to learn it all - unless you want to
    Last edited by Zaskoda; Jun 28, 2005 at 13:04.

  15. #15
    Born to Code rainadaman's Avatar
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    hey you are just 18 , don't panic.
    Web designing has great career ahead.
    I was born intelligent,
    But Google ruined me.

  16. #16
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    Anticipate where the money will go. Here's some useful questions, the answers to which may guide you in your decisions.

    - What are businesses going to need or want this year and the next 4-5 years?
    - What services are they going to need?
    - What solutions will be available to them?
    - What are they willing to spend for those solutions?
    - Are there niches where you can be the big fish in the little pond?
    - What value could you provide that would make a huge impact on the industry?
    - What unique selling proposition would you need to attract the clients you want?
    - How can you develop a service and marketing plan quickly to be the leader?
    - How would you have to think to make your plan succeed?

    I hope that helps.
    I study speed waiting. I can wait an entire hour in 10 minutes.

  17. #17
    SitePoint Zealot Emma's Avatar
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    Sean,

    Can I ask what degree you are going to pursue at SCAD? Graphic Design? I ask because I am graduating from Art Institute of Atlanta next year in web design and I am looking for a school to go to for graduate studies... I would love to go SCAD. I was actually there on tuesday and picked up a catalog. They only had interactive design/ game development and I am not at all interested in game development.

    Let me know Scad is a great school, and I believe if you enjoy web design and it makes you happy, then you should go for it.

    Emma

  18. #18
    SitePoint Enthusiast Sean Maisch's Avatar
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    Thanks Emma. I was thinking of double majoring because the arts are so saturated and competitive, it's nice to have that extra bonus degree / something to fall back on. I'm really not sure what I want to do yet, I hope to find that out in college. They have lots of tests (for undergraduates, not sure about graduates) that you can take and tell you your specific interests.

    I would like to study these fields:
    1. Advertising Design (Somewhat interested)
    2. Broadcast Design and Motion Graphics (Somewhat interested)
    3. Graphic Design (Very interested)
    4. Visual Effects (Very interested)


    I've met with one of the graphic design professors, he seemed really cool, but he warned me about Advertising Design. I can't remember exactly what he said, but I think it went along the lines of: "You need 3 things to be an Advertising Designer ... Sell like a car sales man, ______ like a ______, and ______ like a ______." That's all I really remember, haha. I think he tossed in Lawyer and Business Owner.

    Anyways, I really suggest you schedule an appointment or tour.

    Also, I pulled this from their site:
    Quote Originally Posted by http://scad.edu/academic/programs/graduate/index.html#mfa
    Master of Fine Arts Degree

    The Master of Fine Arts program is a 90-credit-hour course of study offered in advertising design, animation, architectural history, art history, broadcast design and motion graphics, fashion, fibers, film and television, furniture design, graphic design, historic preservation, illustration, industrial design, interactive design and game development, interior design, media and performing arts, metals and jewelry, painting, photography, sequential art, sound design and visual effects.

    The M.F.A. program offers a wide range of required and elective courses, among them seminars, lectures, studios, field studies and professional practice. All M.F.A. students are required to complete at least one internship as part of their course of study. Two types of internships are offered: the field internship and the teaching internship. Both are intended to provide advanced students with professional experience that enhances their knowledge and career preparation. The M.F.A. degree is recognized in many art disciplines as the terminal degree and may qualify its recipients to teach at the college level. M.F.A. candidates are required to complete an approved graduate thesis in their major.
    Savannah is a really cool city, but I don't know what it'd be like moving from Atlanta. I'd imagine it's a ton smaller. I've never been to Atlanta. You're lucky you live so close by, you should call them up and just ask what they offer as far as graduate school tours.

    I look forward to being in GA coming this September! The humidity is going to murder me though.
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  19. #19
    SitePoint Enthusiast Sean Maisch's Avatar
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    Also, for some really cool and inspirational stuff, check out JJ Walker, a SCAD graduate who has done some really cool visual effects work. You have to check out JJ & Maithy's Montage video. Simply stunning! It might give some solid proof of what could come from a SCAD education.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by SidraG
    No one knows where life can take you. Go to college and start learning. You may discover it's what you want to do, you may discover it's not. More important, keep an open mind towards taking all sorts of different classes while you are there. Art schools offer everything from animation, to programming, to design, to film, photography and more. Experiment, see what turns you on. One thing I've learned over the years is that life can bring you around full circle. What you are doing now, or what you were doing five years ago can have a profound effect on what you may do 10 or 15 years down the line. I've been working at a job for 15 years that I found out years later I got because when I was interviewed I had mentioned a project I had done with a bunch of friends at 14. Go figure. All the experiences in your life will play a role in what you end up doing and most of us change careers a couple of times. So, don't sweat the details now. At 17, you should plan what you want to do in the next year, not what you think you're going to want to do the rest of your life.
    Reminds me a bit of myself. I am 31 and going back to school again for a degree in Visual Communications with an emphasis on web design. Definately at 17 you should not be stressing about the rest of your life. Go to school, make good grades, learn everything you can and enjoy yourself most importantly. If this is what you love then pursue it relentlessly, regardless of
    what anyone else says.

    Good luck!

  21. #21
    SitePoint Addict smittenbite's Avatar
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    Sean,

    it might seem like all those things that you might have to learn to get your degree could be a bit overwhelming when you think about it. but if you truly enjoy this then hard work wont seem like 'hard work' at all because youre enjoying what youre learning about. it'll be a tough experience at times but youll have fun while doing it since you will enjoy it. if youre interested and have been for so long maybe you should take on a few classes to see if it still sparks your interest, and if it does then you can go on and get your degree in whatever. and if it doesnt then oh well cause youll take some other classes too and one of those might catch your interest even more. just make sure youre doing what you WANT to do and everything thing else will work itself out eventually!

    like someone said already theres a LOT of people wanting to do this right now and competition is fierce. but just go to college, do good, and have fun though cause its so much more than the facts that you learn there its the whole experience in general and all the people you'll meet. again make sure youre doing what you want to do and everything else will work itself out eventually. good luck !
    nothing.

  22. #22
    SitePoint Enthusiast Sean Maisch's Avatar
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    Thanks, I appreciate everyone's advice and kind words. I haven't been too active in my designing department and I'm starting to lose interest, but I'm sure that's just the summer-before-college laziness taking effect. I keep telling myself I'll find out what I really want to do in college and I have my whole life ahead of me.
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  23. #23
    _ silver trophy ses5909's Avatar
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    Yeah Sean -- make sure you shoot me a message when you get to savannah and we can get together for coffee or cocoa (my preference) and talk shop.
    Sara

  24. #24
    SitePoint Enthusiast Sean Maisch's Avatar
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    Thanks for the display of hospitality I hope I won't be too busy over there.

    The humidity is going to murder me.
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  25. #25
    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    I lived in Florida for 24 years, the humidity won't kill you and in fact will only make you stronger

    As for your fears: yes, web design is one of those fields where you're constantly picking up new things just to stay relevant. If you're not the type of person that likes keeping up on things then you might want to consider other career options. However, the new skills you learn shouldn't be how you perceive the field either. You're going to a design school so you are going to get all kinds of background and theory from your courses. Use that to your advantage; those concepts will be the fundamentals you can base your work on, not necessarily the latest CSS trick or the hot programming language of the week. If you're worried about your graphical skill, don't be. You'll get better with time, especially once you have a solid foundation of theory under your belt.

    And to Dean: The UK seems to limit social/economic mobility in its educational system a lot more than the US does. Here, your fate is nowhere near decided upon high school graduation unless you have a D average and want to get into medical school or something, and even then it might still happen if you work hard enough. I know a guy who did okay (read: not great, not bad) in high school, went to college for a hospitality degree, then realized he wanted to be a dentist. He had done well in his hospitality courses, so he just had to take a few extra science classes and now he's in dental school.


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