How I Got Into Design and Web Dev and Why I Strayed Away From It

Before I became obsessed with all things photography and cameras, I was obsessed with web design, graphic design, and web development. And honestly, I’m not sure that I would have ever gotten into photography and art if it weren’t for those things.

It all started about 12 years ago on Neopets. Do you all remember that website? Apparently, it is still a thing. Without getting into too much detail about my time on Neopets, there were groups that you could join or create called guilds. The thing I really enjoyed about these guilds was that each guild had its own page that you could customize with graphics and coding. In addition, people made separate websites where they would have tutorials on how to make banners and graphics in Photoshop for your guild pages and how to change the colors of your page using HTML and CSS. I took an immediate interest to this and really admired those who were good at making these websites and pages. 

So I pretty much dove right in and taught myself how to use Photoshop and how to code basic HTML and CSS websites. I also figured out how to host my own website, buy a domain, and use FTP programs to upload everything to my hosted sites. I’m impressed with myself looking back on it, especially since I was only 10 or 11 at the time.

I never did quite have a successful website. They just never really went anywhere beyond me having the idea and setting everything up. Often I would get stuck perfecting the layout, the code, trying to decide on a color scheme. Over the years and as social media platforms came and went, I tried to get into making custom Myspace, Tumblr, Blogger, and WordPress themes, but the main purpose of these websites was content sharing and creation, not design or coding, and I wasn’t interested in that at the time. That really became the demise of design and development as a hobby for me. I had no content to put on the things I was building and designing so I had no purpose in designing or building websites anymore.

From there my design work morphed into digital art and coding went by the wayside. This was probably also the turning point for me in photography because I needed photographs to use in my digital art, and therefore wanted to learn how to take better photos. Plus, I had this mission in high school to figure out how to ‘Photoshop’ in the darkroom. In addition, my high school didn’t offer anything in the way of graphic design and coding classes. They only offered digital art and photography classes, so I took all of them. Literally.

During high school and college, I still wanted to be a web designer and web developer along with being a photographer, but I knew I needed to learn more about coding and design. Unfortunately, the schools that I went to, and the classes I took, didn’t help me improve on design or coding much. And they definitely didn’t teach me how to use that technical foundation to visually problem solve and how to work with design briefs. You know, real world job stuff.

Now that I’m out of school, back to self-teaching, and back on this design, photography, web dev track, I’m finding myself in the same dilemma. What do I design or make when I don’t have any visual problems to solve or design briefs to work from? Visual problem solving isn’t the same as creating something that looks aesthetically pleasing. It seems like all of the tutorials I’ve found just go over the technical tools…how to make a paper effect in Illustrator, how to make a logo, how to do a glitch effect in Photoshop… or they go over the theory and don’t explain how to apply it. Once I know the tools and the theory, that still doesn’t answer the question of what to make and what visual problems I should be solving. I feel like I am missing something.

In trying to work through this dilemma, I’ve come to the conclusion that I just need to start thinking outside the box and making projects for myself. I’ve been thinking how can I make client work for myself or even client work for things that don’t exist yet. So far I’ve come up with the following projects:

  • Redesign my portfolio website
  • Design and code a wordpress template for this blog
  • Work on personal branding – decide on a color scheme, make a logo, redo my business card
  • Design a newsletter – in case I decide to get into email marketing.
  • Make a magazine mockup for my art feature account on Instagram
  • Create more album art, maybe do a series where I redo old album covers

Hopefully someone out there can relate to this or maybe I really am missing something and someone can guide me in the right direction. If you do have any comments, suggestions, tutorials, etc, please send them my way!