Beloved Monsters


Happy end of February!

This past weekend I got to see the Eels in concert up in Columbus. Saw a good concert with a good friend, and they even played one of my all-time favorite songs – My Beloved Monster. Which got me thinking about doodle monsters (so I doodled), and real-life monsters. Monsters can be furry, or scary, or have three heads. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the three-headed monster that is the interwebs.

As a print designer, my experience with web is still growing (mainly building this site, and professionally managing content & updating work-related websites on Drupal and WordPress). But I do know one thing: When Adobe launched Muse a little more than a year ago, I was excited and then immediately let down.

My problem with Adobe Muse is this: all it does is perpetuate print design standards in a web world, where they aren’t necessary. Muse is literally telling us “pay no attention to the code behind the curtain”. I have a belief that as designers, its our job to understand how things work, then we take that knowledge and apply it to our projects. Why would Adobe want to pacify us? Keeping us in a print mentality is dangerous, and encourages the idea that web is big and scary and impossible to learn. But it’s not, it’s the exact opposite. I love working within perimeters and rules, and that’s exactly what web is. We should want to learn. We shouldn’t want to live on false hope just to make our lives easier. Muse is an internet band-aid for designers, and band-aids always get super mega gross and fall off, even the super cool Batman band-aids.

Web is like learning a totally different language, but it’s not impossible to bridge the gap. HTML & CSS open up entire universes. They challenge your imagination, and make you think hard. While there is no user interface, short cut, or plug-in in the world that will help you remember how you got that code working at 3am the night before, there are moments of epiphany and brilliance that can only come from understanding the native tongue. Learning it fluently is a challenge, but not the impossible mountain I had made it out to be when I graduated college.

We shouldn’t be seeing it as a dreaded inevitability. It’s a way of creating awesome things in different ways. Understanding how the web, browsers and search engines work together is extremely important, even if you personally never build a single site. You might have to work with a developer one day, either via a freelance project or as a design studio cubicle-comrade, and understanding the language is invaluable, saves time and avoids horribly messy miscommunications. Plus, in smaller companies design and website management (or even marketing and web management–or design, marketing and web management, which is what I do for a local non-profit) are being rolled into one. So whereas the website might already exist, it could be as easy as updating your old LiveJournal (like a simple WordPress CMS) or it could be a little more complicated. Understanding CMS limits are also very important, because they are not all created equally.

I’ve taught myself enough (with guidance from friends) to tide me over for now, but I’m going to start messing with my site again in my free time (of which I have, but I schedule horribly: there’s this show on Netflix called the West Wing, perhaps you’ve heard of it?). I don’t know how long the redesign will take me, or what I want it to look like, but I know I want it to be more awesome. It want it to be all of the awesomes. And while I doubt that I’ll ever be worthy enough to upgrade myself to “web designer/front end developer” and know my brain isn’t quite suited for the role of “backend developer”, its no excuse to not be competent enough to interact with a real one when I need to.

-Hearts and farts, Katie

I’ve had this entire post sitting on my desktop as a stickynote (virtual, not post-it) for quite awhile. I’ve noticed that’s become a habit of mine – writing fully fleshed-out blog entries and then never posting them. I know, totally silly. I am an internet-wussy. 

For more well-known opinionated opinions, the uber-talented Jessica Hische spilled her brain recently about web design and as always, good things came out.



7 thoughts on “Beloved Monsters

  1. I couldnt agree more.

    I was just talking to a few people the other day – my intern is having some trouble designing for web, I even told her to look at and copy examples from around the web – maybe copy me the examples of which she is emulating, and she didnt know what I mean. And she’s an exceptional designer.

    Just goes to show how schools aren’t really living up to what you’re paying them. I think that most designers should be subscribed to techcrunch and fromupnorth and a few other sites so they stay “in the loop” and constantly try and emulate what they see.

    Relying on Muse (or even DreamWeaver) is a huge hinderance at the moment, in my opinion. Give me WordPress any day. I’ve never even used Drupal. I tried Squarespace for a few months, but to be honest WordPress has a community like no other and documentation for their plugins out the wazoo. I have a hard time taking web-designers seriously who don’t use a CMS like WordPress

    • Sadly, a lot of 4 year programs are just now integrating web into their curriculum. 2 year programs seem to be better at including it, but also have their own set of pros and cons. So lots of 4 year design & marketing grads have to rely on teaching themselves or if they get lucky, working for a studio/employer that is willing to invest in their learning.

      I used Lynda tutorials to get my feet wet, and while Dreamweaver isn’t perfect, it helped me understand the basics in an Adobe environment I was comfortable in for the time being. Having been an intern here and there, having someone breakdown the elements of a website, and explaining wire-framing was really helpful to me and my design process.

      There are content management systems for every shade of the web, and finding the one that works best for the design project is the way to go. WordPress might be just fine 89% of the time, but it’s nice to know what the more powerful systems have to offer.

  2. Your post is interesting–the good kind of interesting, not just saying it to be polite. I’ve never heard of Adobe Muse, but based on your description I’m glad for my lack of awareness. Regarding your thoughts of print designers should learn about html and css coding, I agree, I think print designers should learn the new languages.
    1) To what end would you feel satisfied to learn different subjects/programs as a print designer? Examples Q’s below…
    A) If you say print designers should learn coding for the web, should web designers, front-end and back-end developers learn about print design?
    B) What about learning how to code for software and video games?
    C) Shouldn’t designers learn about motion graphics too?
    D) Why stop there? Shouldn’t designers learn about computers and their hardware to know how it works?
    E) Since we’re adding computers and hardware to mix might as well throw in physics, architecture, algorithms, the golden ratio which applies math and nature, geology, biology, microbiology, chemistry, history, philosophy, psychology, etc. Not really a question, but at what point, will you as an individual print designer be satisfied of learning?

    Deep I know. I felt like I was on a roll for ranting. Feel free to not respond, just throwing some thoughts out there.

    • Holy smokes Ms. Miller! Bahaha.

      Learning things is not the same as being an expert. I want to know how things work. That doesn’t mean I will then do all the things I’ve learned on a regular basis. Learning is for discovery. I can learn about something, and if it doesn’t tug at my heartguts I can still retain that information, and move on to learning something else. I want to be better at what I have to offer as a creative person. Will I be able to do everything? Most likely no. I only have two hands, one brain, 24 hours in the day and have a knack for procrastination and watching Netflix. But will I be able to understand projects on multiple levels and collaborate across departments? Most likely yes.

      a) Absolutely. More understanding across party lines leads to better communication and a better product in the end. Some of the smartest developers (and people) I know have also dabbled in certain areas of print, or started off on the complete other end of the design/creative spectrum.

      b) If it’s something you’re passionate about, sure! Technically, if you were to build a basic “choose your own adventure game” it would be a creative warm up to the “if ___ then ___” coding language that a lot of today’s web development relies on.

      c) Again, absolutely. If some university were to create the perfect curriculum for a modern graphic designer, it should be included.

      d) Having married a nerd and constantly surrounded by other nerds (I use the term as an endearment to all the insanely smart people in my life), I can’t imagine not being tech savy. Having a basic knowledge also helps when it comes time to figure out web hosting.

      As for all the other topics you’ve mentioned, you’re talking to a girl who spent her youth playing Encarta 96′s Mindmaze (google it). I’m not kidding. I am a curious person, and I will always want to learn. Will I want to sit through learning Calculus? No, because I’m not passionate about numbers. But I know it’s a valuable skill set and know what to look for if I ever need a human that is passionate about them.

      • 1) Sooo you want to be an expert in graphic design?

        a) Glad you say so. Sad possibility is that people may be offended if you try to cross your job description into their territory. Like when some marketing people think they can design better than someone who actually earned a degree in graphic design. Or someone who studied business and declare they can design well because they took one or two design courses but didn’t major or minor in it. People are just doomed. You’re damned if you only stick to exactly what your job description says and you’re damned if you step out of bounds into someone else’s job responsibilities and duties.

        b) It would be cool to create a game.

        c) I’m sure universities and colleges offer motion graphics courses, but for graphic design majors I’m sure it would be offered as an optional course, not mandatory.

        d) For some reason I can’t store into long-term memory the difference between ROM and RAM.

        e) I never took Calculus, I learned about cake in my university math class.

        • I’m not talking about usurping the supreme power of backend developers (they are seriously web gods and goddesses). I’m talking about understanding it. Having realistic expectations of the web and what it can do seriously helps when you need to collaborate with the epic lords of backend codeville. I don’t want to know everything just so I can know everything. I want to know a variety of things so when I’m working on a project I know what options I have, and be able to effectively converse with the people who are the experts. We can discuss this further on our next google hangout, I have some real-life examples I can tell you about if you’re still fuzzy about what I’m trying to say.

          I wish I had cake in math class, that would have been a total game changer.

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