Thoughts on a Mass Media Design Class
I have to admit that my first assumption of a Mass Media Design class would cover, you know—just what the name implied—designing across multiple platforms or channels to reach your mass audience.
For example – designing layouts for both publication in print and digital audiences. Whether it be through email blasts, digital advertising, printed direct mail pieces, or designing digital graphics to go along with television spots. Learning things like proper resolution specs, common digital work spaces sizes, e-commerce, banner ad specs, color modes, etc.
I was shocked to find out though that the Mass Media Design class turned out to actually be a web design class. I don’t mind the challenge of being thrown out of my comfort zone to gain new skills and knowledge.
Even though I was shocked, surprised and cursed at the class curriculum as flashbacks of trying to conquer Adobe Dreamweaver years ago came back in full PTSD mode, I still looked forward to giving it another shot—especially since web design is a foreign language to me.
Web designer and developer is not the direction that my career took me down. However, it is important knowledge to have in our industry, even if its just a little bit (especially when now-a-days employers expect designers to know everything design).
With graphic design applications like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop you have the freedom to move around and stretch your creative legs. With these software powerhouses you are only limited by your imagination and how much you want to learn about the programs. These are the applications that I call home and live in every day.
Is this Mars?
Designing in a web-based application is not the same. The architecture is different. The technology that drives what the end user experiences is different. The design experience is different. The terminology and jargon is different—I will still be trying to figure out padding for the next year. If you’re a traditional graphic designer who’s both sides of the brain is right-footed, then it feels like you just stepped onto an alien planet.
But there are also many commonalities that apply and transfer from the traditional design world to this one. Some things are straight forward and can be figured out if you just click enough buttons, use some common sense and deductive reasoning and experience. But other things take more time and different techniques that a traditional graphic designer may be used to—just to complete the same task.
For instance, you can’t just click on something and try to move it anywhere you want to on the page. You can’t just select an item—scale it, distort, or transform it, or quick-key the hell out of it. There are steps, and in some cases lots of steps, just to do things that should seem simple. Click this, go that palette, now go over here and change these attributes, adjust the padding on the top and bottom and set the margins on the left and right. Congratulations, you just moved a box. Even if I did manage to figure something out, being able to repeat it or remember how I got there became confusing—In all fairness though, this is also due to my inexperience and not being able to speak the alien language yet.
But knowing how far we have come in the development of web design—it could be a lot worse.
It could involve keying in line after line, after line, after line of code just to do the same thing. And if something doesn’t look correct, you would have to sift through the page of text and code to find the error. This is tedious, tiring and very technical work. This is the nature of this world and how it works—It is structured and has a purpose. At least now we can edit visually on the front end, without having to see the hidden language behind the window—that is unless one wants to.
So far, I am pleasantly surprised with what I have learned and the progress made. Three weeks ago, if you asked me what <h2>insert text<h2/> meant, or to navigate my way around an interface that looked nothing like I had seen before—I would have probably just sat in the corner, curled up in the fetal position rocking myself back and forth murmuring inaudible jibberish about Dreamweaver.
After collaborating with fellow students, watching YouTube tutorials and stumbling across many “happy accidents” along the way, I have somehow managed to put together 11 pages, and 3 posts, and some actual working dynamic content.
This is valuable information that will come in handy in my career—not to mention, one of the most unique, frustrating, I-need-another-drink, but rewarding hands-on learning experiences that I have had so far as a non-traditional student.
Just like any software application or interface, it takes staying within the program to learn it, exploring it and messing up to become efficient at it. I may never be efficient at web design, but my interest is piqued.