These words have been sitting in my ‘finish up and publish’ pile for almost two years and finally I’ve been inspired to do just that this week, after listening to Unfinished Business and then The Freelance Web. The idea of reclaiming the role of web design has been spoken about on both shows recently and I think they were inspired by Dan Rubin’s talk at the recent MK Geek Night All Dayer (although I didn’t attend).
Living A Lie
I’ve actually been a web designer ever since my first real job, way back in 2004. But, for one reason or another, I’ve always been in denial. I’ve preferred to call myself a graphic designer or a designer-who-works-on-the-web or even a UI and UX designer. Nothing wrong with those terms of course, but I think it hints at the underlying fact that web design still isn’t regarded as a respectable design medium by many.
I was given my first break by two friends who were setting up a web design agency in Wales called Web Media Works. They planted the seed of web design by introducing me to CSS, the importance of web standards and the open source movement.
We tried our hands at everything, from building ecommerce sites to designing board games to recording podcasts. Then, I got hooked on blogging, and it was whilst fumbling my way through WordPress templates that I got my first taste of CSS.
It was also at Web Media Works that I discovered Jeffrey Zeldman’s article Style Versus Design. At the time, I found it very challenging, but it has come to form the basis of my views on design. After following Jeffrey, I soon discovered Andy Clarke, and I was pretty excited to find out that he was local(ish). I think that I even emailed Andy, congratulating him on being a great web standards evangelist here in Wales (cringe).
After a few years at Web Media Works, I fell into freelancing. I felt that offering print design services alongside web stuff would help strengthen my ability as a graphic designer (something I had never formally trained in). I soon realised however that the web design skills that I’d developed were often more effective (and more in demand). I began building the sites that I was mocking up, first in flat HTML/CSS and then by building WordPress themes (based on Starkers).
Fast forward a few years and I had joined James Good, based in Swansea.
Late during 2011, James won two tickets to New Adventures in Nottingham. Knowing my passion for web design, he offered me first dibs on the other ticket. I gratefully accepted, even though the previous year’s conference had completely passed me by. We made our way up to Nottingham (driving part of the way along the tram lines) without knowing what to expect.
When we arrived, I remember saying to James (only half-jokingly)
“these are my people”. They were designers, the shaggy haircuts, scruffy trainers and button badges confirmed that much, but they were web too. Web designers. People who cared about good typography and good semantic HTML and good content. Web designers. I felt like I belonged.
This experience refreshed my passion for all things web. And here we are today. I can’t live in denial any more. I am a web designer, I love the medium of web design and I find the passion of the people working in this industry inspiring and addictive.
My name is Benjy and I’m a web designer.