From industry professional to web design student

At the tender age of eighteen I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked professionally in the web design industry for almost three years. In that time, I have been a front-end developer for two agencies and last year embarked on a two year Foundation Degree in Web Design at University Centre Wakefield.

From an early age I always knew I wanted a job in IT, but never specifically something web related. My route in to the web came from watching my brother study a web design module on an IT course at college. He managed to get hold of a copy of Macromedia Dreamweaver and, needless to say, I caught the bug. I was soon able to fumble my way around Photoshop and also picked up bits and pieces of HTML & CSS online. I later became less interested in how computers worked and more so how computers could be used to create and innovate.

After leaving secondary school, I was lucky enough to secure an internship at a local design agency after undertaking work experience there the previous year. Whilst on my internship, I worked on various projects including CMS driven sites, eCommerce, branding, and even the odd piece of print. Once the internship came to an end my employers felt I that had ‘earned my worth’ and offered me a permanent job.

It was whilst working at this design agency that I was introduced to a web design course being taught at a nearby University Centre which was responsible for producing much of the local web design talent. Being seventeen, and of the age where I was encouraged to start thinking about Higher Education, I decided to find out more.

Experience vs Qualification

After starting my career in web design not long after leaving secondary school, some would have forgiven me for thinking that undertaking a university degree was unnecessary because I was building up a portfolio and gaining experience from working client-side.

However, I was never sure of the theory behind what I was doing with design or typography; I didn’t understand the complexities of colour theory or the psychology behind design choices. All these, I was unlikely to learn on the job.

I’m all too familiar with the bad press web design education often receives. I had heard countless accounts of those disappointed with what was being taught on some web design courses, resulting in students being ill-prepared for a job in the industry.

The Foundation Degree being taught at Wakefield isn’t like most web design qualifications. The course prides itself on its ties with local web design firms to ensure the content of the course is always up-to-date and relevant. In some cases, industry professionals will be drafted in to teach particular modules such as WordPress or responsive design.

A tight-knit network of industry professionals, built up over the course’s fifteen year lifespan, are on hand throughout the year providing support, guidance, workshops and lectures on various topics – many of which are ex-students of the course who have gone on to secure a job in the industry or set up their own businesses. This network of local professionals gives students a direct route into potential full-time employment once the course has come to an end.

Earning & Learning

I am now into my second and final year of the course and have not been disappointed. This year we will be introduced to another of the course’s unique selling points that I’m sure most web design qualifications fail to introduce into the curriculum – live commercial projects for real-world clients.

All too often students are left ill-equipped to deal with clients once they enter the world of work. FdA Web Design is giving those without experience of dealing with clients the opportunity to do so in a controlled and disciplined environment. Students are taught the fundamentals of running a business, managing a team (and clients), working to commercially realistic deadlines and the financial implications of it all.

This, together with everything else that is taught, contributes to the the overall aim of the course which is to have students leave and enter employment in the creative and digital sectors.

Traditional Education is Still Relevant

With an ever increasing number of e-learning platforms popping up such as Treehouse and Learnable, I feel that traditional education still has an important role to play in producing the next generation of web designers.

A university setting provides regular support from experienced tutors which guarantees us feedback to help our development. We’re presented with obvious routes into employment, which have been developed through years of networking with local web professionals, and we have a large support network of past and present students.

Web design education receives a lot of bad press and almost all web design courses are tarred with the same brush. They’re not all the same; some are better than others. I believe the course being run at Wakefield is doing it right, and everything being taught is directly related to my day-to-day job.

FdA Web Design hasn’t just taught me the theory behind web design but it’s also provided me with opportunity to further my career. This is something I’m sure I wouldn’t have had the confidence or ability to do so if I hadn’t of chosen to study on a traditional web design course – specifically, a course with a proven track record of creating employable and well equipped graduates.

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