As the old saying goes: Necessity is the Mother of all Creation
My music baby, Union Progressive.com
went down for the count over 6 weeks ago and was facing indefinite limbo status until a friend across the pond hooked me up with his new server. Until that moment when his MSN message blipped onto my screen, I was probably wallowing in the lowest pits of career apathy.
Work was dull. The work load had really thinned out and worse yet, the work there was to do was hardly motivating. Inspiring myself to create work for myself (of which there are endless opportunities) was akin to asking me to shove glass beneath my fingernails.
I didn't even care too much when UP went offline, first for a couple days, then longer. After about a week it becamse clear something unpleasant and permanent had taken place. But I didn't even care that much. I was hardly doing any recording, let alone mixing and neither were any of my other DJ mates. Nothing needed to be updated, so why bother? And why shed a tear when barely a year after its launch, my first music website got wiped off the face of cyberspace?
Getting new hosting space was the call to arms that roused me from my creative slump. There was a lead up to it though. It all started when I came across Jeff Croft's website and blog. Jeff is a web designer based in Kansas who blogs about what it means to be a modern web designer. This isn't the usual hum-drum tutorial or white paper on accessibility issues or web standards (although he goes into great length about that as well). His writing is hardly pendantic, instead opting to put a more personal spin on our maddening and misunderstood profession. Recent posts on his blog include things like "Five things I’m doing to get better at web design"
and "What does it mean to be a 'professional' web designer?"
. Well... what DOES it mean? For all the web design blogs and portals that are out there, I'm amazed that so very few writers have bothered to throw a simple question like that out into Internet-land for discussion.
Jeff's site attracts a lot of visitors and many of his blog posts have racked up a pile of user comments. And it's great, the discussions that I found myself reading. And as a result of checking out Jeff's stuff, I very quickly became very interested and passionate about my work again.
There was no going back. Jeff Croft.com was just a springboard to rediscovering the joys of the web design gallery. And more design blogs. And more galleries. And more blogs.
I was back in the game. Or rather, I was ready to back get into it. I was realizing just how much I'd silpped behind in the last 12 to 18 months. The CSS galleries (you can't swing a dead cat without smacking one) have been especially intriguing. The more things change, the more they stay the same! Yes, web design is still largely a congo line of people copying each other's designs. These galleries still read a bit like a photo album to a large family that's inbred for generations. Yet the sheer volume and quality of work has increased dramatically since I first started. It seems like there are more web and graphic designers than ever before. And many of them, sometimes even the students and new graduates, are cranking out amazing work... stuff that frankly, I would be hard-pressed to match. Gone are the days when every designer and his ass was riffing on Praystation or Hillman Curtis. In 2006, everyone's got mad Photoshop and CSS skills and every second person's publishing tutorials or waxing poetic about web standards or DOM scripting or whatever is hot news at the moment. Remember when it was just a handful of pasty, pauncy gurus, like Jakob Nielsen or Jeffrey Zeldman?
Anyway, I blab. But I blab because I'm excited about my career again. I'm excited for my profession. Although I feel a bit discouraged that I have so much catching up and refreshing to do, I'm eager to get back up to speed and to actually excel
at my work. I'm jazzed about giving Union Progressive a fresh coat of paint and I've been agonizing over the last week tweaking my design comp just so. It'll probably be another week before I begin to consider writing a single line of markup, but that's OK. I'm enjoying the process immensely.
So, to take a cue from Jeff, I thought I'd post up my own list of the 5 things I'm doing to get better at web design
1.) Read More -
I'm notorious for dropping $50 on a web development or graphic design book and letting it collect dust on my bookshelf. Back when I got that gig in Yaletown working at the Template Factory(tm), I picked up More Eric Meyer on CSS
and I have yet to complete one chapter. It's sitting on my desk now, staring me in the face, waiting to be used. Well, I do plan on perusing it more as I strive to improve my CSS coding. I've also recently picked up a nice little textbook on the historical trends to problem solving in advertising and graphic design. The point is, if I'm not going to spend $500 on a night course to upgrade my knowledge, I best be taking advantage of the wealth of information available to me at the bookstore. And that's exactly what I intend to do.
2.) On the Side Action -
I've been shying away from freelance work for the longest time. It's been so bad that many small projects intended for friends have sat neglected and unfinished. When I realized that, I've been turning down offers for freelance work as a matter of course, because I haven't been able to trust myself to deliver and stay motivated. I'm feeling different about that right now. At the moment I have my music site dominating all my thoughts. Once I get that launched early next month, I'll probably start work on the new iteration of my 2004 portfolio site in time to launch early in the new year. So after cranking that puppy out, I really want to start designing sites on the side and seek out really ambitious, creative projects. Not only will this keep me fresh, it will be small building blocks to learning more about business and learning the ropes for perhaps working for myself somewhere down the line.
3.) Fill in the Gaps -
4.) Improve My Writing -
For someone who enjoys blogging and writing in general, my overall web page copywriting skills could use some polishing up. I first came face to face with this realization when I was confronted about the overblown, pretentious copy I wrote for Union Progressive. It's hard for me to write honestly since I am susceptible to speaking behind a marketing or promotional facade like a lot of people are. I've also been hampered by my tendency to always treat writing and design as two separate entities when they are in fact very complimentary disciplines.
5.) Take Better Care of Myself -
Wow, a common sense thing like good health made it into my list about web design? Well... if you've been living like I have, then I wonder if I should have made this my #1 instead of #5. Getting enough sleep each night, excercising and being relaxed and well rested are all things I have been doing very, very poorly these last few months. I got a big slap in the face a few weeks ago when I hopped onto the scale at my friend's house and watched the gauge jump up almost 10 extra pounds. Look, I'm no calorie counter, but when I effortlessly pack on 10 lbs. (it's not even Xmas yet, man) and start leaving all my belts in storage, something
is up... and it ain't pretty.
This doesn't even touch on the countless days when I feel so damn tired, even if I was feeling motivated or creative enough to do something constructive and meaningful, I run out of gas within the hour. It's all about covering the basics, living well and leading a healthy life.
I was going to find a decent way to end this post but my time is up here in the office and I am itching to get home for my nap. (yes, another late night working on my baby)