Twenty years ago, I acquired a copy of some software that would change my life. Photoshop and Dreamweaver. Over the course of the next twenty years, my life has taken many twists and turns and my career has gone full circle. Photoshop remains as does Dreamweaver but how we go about what we do has changed so much.
I started out as a designer or a web designer as I prefer to be known. I’d always been pretty creative at school but web design didn’t really stand out until I gave it a go one evening whilst making a website for a football computer game I was playing. Being able to produce graphics was pretty exciting and then having control to arrange web pages was equally as exciting and it was at this point I knew I wanted to leave IT Support behind and have a go at doing websites.
My skills within Photoshop improved and I was now producing what I thought was pretty nice stuff. My first proper website for myself was all brushed metal effect. I’d seen a site somewhere and thought yes, I want that look so I spent ages perfecting the images. I spent hours coming up with themes around that, just genuinely having fun.
It was this site that got me my first proper job. I was officially a web designer. I was designing up web pages and then building the designs. I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to do what I loved.
Over the first couple of years, I started to learn CSS which meant my designs pushed on too. Designing for non table layout was a hurdle to get your mind over but once you felt free, designs improved and got noticed by others.
Over time I moved into a senior designer role. We were designing and building sites for major sporting events, huge charities and well known sports companies. The bar had been raised but again, it remained fun but challenging…but a good challenging.
And then the designing stopped. The emergence of Frontend Development, jQuery, CSS3 and HTML meant that my focus moved to building rather than designing. The money was shifting to that side and by now I was bored of being told to make the logo bigger.
I was now a frontend developer. I still designed but never really for anyone but myself. I enjoyed doing it for me but not others.
Something I faced as a FE dev was the notion that devs can’t design. This hurt as I’d spent a good 6/7 years designing sites for fairly big projects which was now forgotten due to a job title. I fought with many a designer over how things should be done only to be told, you build, I’ll design.
After so many years, I’d got bored of FE. It was starting to become more technical and those designers who said developers can’t design was starting to become true. I fought an internal mental battle with FE to the point where I gave it up to move into a UX role.
Now I believe we all “UX” but some do it better and that part of the stack wasn’t for me. Some of it was but not the bits I didn’t enjoy so back to frontend I went.
We’re almost at the twenty year mark now. I’m battered and bruised and have had enough. I hate my job, the industry, the people in it. And then a moment of clarity.
The only happy constant in that twenty years was the design work I was doing for myself. It was time to embrace that again and move back to what I loved dearly.
It’s funny calling myself a designer again. I’ve had comments like “It’s nice that you want to try your hand at designing” or “I know you are new to this” and I’m sure some think I’m just trying something different to frontend development due to my lack of enthusiasm for it.
Sure I’m a little rusty and things have changed a fair bit from the sites I designed back in the day but I know what looks good and I’ve seen a lot over that time. I’m a designer of twenty years.