How can one become a web designer?

This was an interesting question I had always wanted to answer. Finally did just that on Quora… Here was my reply. Hope this helps others here.

Let me start with an analogy, designing a website is akin to designing a car. In the case of car design, you will need to equip yourself with knowledge of Design (Of course!), Human Ergonomics (in case of Web Design, it’s Usability) and lastly have a good technical understanding of how the car actually works (in case of Web Design, it would be a general understanding the working of the web). So here you go:

Design:

Familiarize yourself with basic principal of design. There are plenty of resources online for you to start with Smashing Magazine: Design Principles: Visual Perception

Follow and study the works of designers from all field and not just web designers. Here is a good list to start with – Announcing The Winner Of Co.Design Bracket Madness!

If it’s not too late, get a formal degree in design.

And yes last but not the least, practice, practice, practice. If not anything else, recreate designs you like. You will end up learning a lot from it when you get into the mind of the designer.

Theory:

Since Web Design is not only about design and not art, your work has to be understood and usable. Get yourself acquainted with theories of Usability and User Experience. You can start from here Usability.gov, Human-Centered Design: an Introduction or perhaps get a copy of Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (3rd Edition) (Voices That Matter): Steve Krug

Tools of the Trade:

  • Software
    Using Photoshop should become second nature. It should become so effortless that you are not even aware you are using it and you are just focused on your design, that requires constant practice. Supplement your Photoshop skill with a Vector Editing tool, like Illustrator or CorelDraw. There is just something that a vector editing tool does better.
  • Coding
    This area is one which is a weak point for most people from pure Art or Design Background, but then if you want to design a better car it sure helps to know how the engine works. Some of the best web designers code themselves as well. Grab books on HTML, CSS and Javascript. These are the building blocks of Front-End Design. I have always advised others, who wanted to learn a new language, to learn from books rather than just grabbing bits and pieces from the net. Books are written for the purpose of walking the learner end to end. So by the time you are through with it, you would have an overall knowledge of the language. HTML & CSS are not programming languages, it’s easy and fun to learn as well. Nothing delight a designer better than to build their creation on their own and see it come to life.

You will always have a more liking for one the three area, you can then focus on that and spend more time studying and practising that.

Motorola Charger Jack. Simple yet extremely usable.

How many times have you found yourself fiddling in the dark to plug the charger jack into your mobile, not sure if the jack should be faced up or down?

moto-charger

Seems like the industrial designers at Motorola Mobility found a solution to this. At least I found it to be pretty effective myself. The body of the jack is curved down in the middle ever so slightly to naturally match the curve of your thumb as you hold it, this gives you a good feel of the orientation of the jack just by holding it without even looking at it.

Yes other mobile companies, including Apple before they came up with the bi-directional jack, did provide a small etched marking on the top side of the jack to indicate that it had to face that way. But neither our fingers are sensitive enough to feel the mark when we are not looking at it, nor our eyes are good enough to see it in the dark.

Some of you may argue that Apple provides the best solution with its bi-directional jack, which can be plugged in either way. Well, no doubt about it. It’s actually an inspired piece of engineering. But then how many of us would wish to trade the use of that jack with our freedom to use other devices as well as our own older devices adapters to charge or to transfer files? Oh heck, forget other devices, I now have to carry two cables for my two Apple devices, one for the older iPod and one for my iPad Mini! So till the day Apple is generous enough (trust me that day will never come) to open their bi-directional jack technology to all, I feel Motorola’s simple little tweak in the adapter design will remain as the most usable and cost-effective solution.

 

Airtel new logo: A Case Study

Recently much has been said and written about the new Airtel Logo. While I don’t think I have the credential of critiquing the logo on the basis of its design and the thought behind this new logo, I would like to dwell a bit on the topic that has been mentioned in few sites, that is its similarity to Vodafone’s own logo.

Some features in the logo are similar to the Vodafone logo:

Before we begin, here is a look at all the three logo, the New Airtel Logo, The Vodafone Logo and the Old Airtel logo.

Vodafone logo
Vodafone logo
Airtel old logo
Airtel old logo

Airtel New Logo
Airtel New Logo

The Basic Shape:

The old logo had a basic shape of a rectangle, but the new logo sport a shape which is pretty similar to Vodafone, which is a round object with a rectangular base.

Airtel Logo Basic Shape
New Airtel Logo Shape
Vodafone Basic Logo shape
Vodafone Logo shape
Old Airtel logo
Old Airtel logo

The Colour:

The new logo is white and is usually placed in a background which is red, this is again a trademark of the Vodafone logo. The old logo where as had a very distinct black colour as part of its logo.

The Typography

The old logo was in Title Case, but the new logo again like the Vodafone logo is all in lower case. Even the choice of font is pretty similar.

Airtel new text
New Airtel Typeface
Vodafone Typeface
Vodafone Typeface

Conclusion

I think Airtel has lost a bit of its distinctive brand image with this new logo. Since most hoardings and Mobile connection outlets might display one of them or both together, Airtel should have come up with a logo which was pretty distinct from Vodafone and not similar to it. Some have argued that it was designed by the same company, I find it hard to believe that a company of that stature cannot come up with something which is different from its competitor.