Designing for Students

October 20th, 2016

This fall, I decided it was high time to redesign lessons for my Intermediate Web Design class at Art Institute. Some of these same designs can be used with my classes at UC Davis as well. Although I have made numerous tweaks to the Intermediate Web Design curriculum, it has been three years since I have done a complete redesign of it. The content I designed and created three years ago has served me well, but the web has moved on in a number of ways, both technologically and aesthetically.

This design is simple enough to code with out a single ID or class, but it shows you can make a simple page look good.Three years ago it was still important to include an HTML5 shiv in your projects. Today, those old browsers that need it are gone. Another technology that has slipped into disuse, for the moment anyway, is sprites and sprite sheets. I expect we may see this technique reemerge in the future in some new way, for now, it is all about icon fonts (even though there is some reasonable amount of backlash against those too). Scalable vector graphics are all the rage, as one can not be sure of the resolution of the target screen, it is hard to make sure your graphical elements will look crisp and clean, unless they are scalable. SVG and many of the newer CSS3 techniques are widely supported by browsers now and there is so much you can do reliably on the web that you could not do even three years ago.

Aesthetically, the web has gone flatter in three years. Flat design has taken over, and although some of the tenants of flat design have been attenuated a bit in the past year or so, there are far less textures, gradients and drop shadows found in modern web design today. I think some of this stuff is cyclical in a way, but some approaches, like skeuomorphic design (trying to make stuff look like real world objects), seems permanently dead.  I could be wrong, perhaps it will come back in a new way, but it seems like the medium of the screen has finally come into its own.

My own design aesthetic has evolved and matured in the past three years as well. As I see new work from bright young designers, it affects my own approaches and thoughts about design. There is always room to strive for better design!

bakeryThe designs I have created to help students learn about web design are simple, and intentionally require few techniques. The coffee shop design requires absolutely no use of IDs or classes at all. It is amazing what you can accomplish with only tag selectors today. In fact, I have been amazed myself, as I find new ways of teaching students how to use CSS how infrequently I need either ID’s or classes.

I am excited to include these new designs in my growing catalog of work, which is so different from other designers work because it’s target audience is students learning to design and code. I hope these pieces inspire students to make more sophisticated design decisions in their own work.sacwritersgroupThis design for a fake Sacramento Writer’s group is deceptively simple and the lesson allows a way in to some interesting and important issues in web design and development.

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