Upgrading Skill Set

The writing has been on the wall for quite some time now that I need to upgrade my skill set. I’ve been happily working in my print design bubble for 25 years. Recently, however, many of those long-standig bubbles have begun to pop. And I’m finding new clients want to bundle web and interactive design with their print requests.

Looking into it is a little overwhelming. Do I focus on UI / UX? Web design? Coding? What? Is there one area that’s more of a natural fit for an experienced print designer?

And where best to do this? Online courses? Community colleges? Just start teaching myself somehow, somewhere and plow through? I’m a little long in the tooth to go for a formal four year program, but some sort of accreditation?

I am also an illustrator and am hoping to shift my focus more into that realm but, in the meantime, the bills do have to get paid.

Any advice, suggestions, thoughts on all of the above are gratefully accepted. Thanks!

The natural place for a designer to head is into front-end web design, which can be referred to as UI/UX. The most marketable UI/UX designers also know their way around HTML5/CSS3, so to answer your question: all of the above is where you might consider focusing.

As for how to learn it, well, everyone learns differently. I tend to learn this kind of thing by doing. Others prefer a more structured, formal program. In the end, though, it takes a whole lot of work with lots of frustrating hours spent figuring things out, which is where the real learning (and remembering) takes place.

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Or you think about hiring a sub-contractor…

There’s stuff I print that I don’t do the installs. I hire in guys who do it 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Doing this gives my client the best possible result.

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The whole “UI/UX designer” designation has boggled me since its emergence. As a graphic designer you are (or at least should be) inherently trained in UI/UX. The fundamental process of design is based on the users interaction and experiences of the design.

That had nothing to do with what you asked. But it’s meant to be encouragement to your insecurity about print design–which like the printed book, is here to stay.

To PrintDrivers point, sub-contract. If your clients are asking you to bundle more services than what you provide, that gives you the opportunity to increase your costs which is what the bulk of freelancers dream of doing–but rarely do.


I disagree with the first point, but agree with the rest. I feel web/internet is a separate discipline as different from graphic design as say, stone carving. Sure, design and art principles apply, but the process is completely different.

I’ve found it is much cheaper to hire a web developer at $20-40/hr. If the client is asking for a bunch of different identity pieces, it’s not unusual to get the design basics down and then pass it on to the web-“guy” simply because they are faster.

I paint, write, and play music. I don’t have time to learn a whole other skill-set when there’s always so much more to learn in my own discipline.

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You’ve lost me there.

I’d agree that the back end of web/internet is separate. But if you left it to programs to create effective websites/applications. The internet would look like visual vomit. It is designers that creates seamless UI/UX because fundamentally designers create with the end user in mind. But stone carving is not different if stone is the medium for what is being communicated through design. Before there was paper, there was clay tablets, and before clay was carvings on stone. Now designers “carve” on digital mediums.

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Simply, one is a finished informational, the other is a virtual device. They are as different from each other from conception, through process, to finish as graphic design is to stone carving. Every step is different because of the tools and methods used. Secondly, all art (unless for fun) is made for a buyer. So to use that as an example of similarities between disciplines is like saying I prefer dark colored eggs because they have yolks…

If this is your standard for similarity between graphic design and web design that’s a mighty tenuous thread. After all Michaelangelo was not painting the Sistine Chapel for himself. He wanted to carve stone, but was commissioned (ordered by the Pope) to paint instead.

Designers are not designers are not designers. This is a huge blanket you’re using to cover anything slightly creative. So maybe we aren’t talking about specifics?

Nope. But I understand what you mean. Industrial design might be closer to web design because it’s designed to be used. Graphic design conveys a message. It’s simply a different animal.

I work a lot because I can do a lot of different things within “art and design”. I believe it’s vital to learn new methods and “build your toolbox”. I’ve done stone carving, clay, oils, acrylic, watercolor, guache(sp?), mixed media, collage, found objects, pencil, tech pen, airbrush, pastels, prismacolors (pencil and marker), acetate blend, printmaking… heck I even did paste up graphic design before the Apple 2.

But what I’m getting at is web design is only slightly related to art/design because you’ll want to understand design principles, color theory - but you will study and write code. So it’s a different discipline imo.

But go for it. My distinction is not there to dissuade you from learning. If anything, the opposite. I feel there is so much to learn in other creative media, that web design (again imo) is a waste of that time.

So… I appreciate the spirited replies! I did some html and CSS years ago. And yes, it was a plodding, frustrating, slow process. But it did it. (Can’t say that I’ve retained much).

I guess I’ll just put my cards on the table and say I’m trying to figure out a way to make a living. Not to get caught up in the minutia of terms, I’m finding more and more clients / employers are looking for web skills along with print. I agree one can cultivate a clientel as a first rate print designer, but that takes time. My client roster has really dropped off and I’m struggling to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, I’ve started to drive UBER to make up the gaps. I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other…

Web skills can mean most anything from design/building websites from scratch, to backend work, to UI/UX work, to template/theme modification to just being proficient enough to enter content and upload photos to a CMS while using a few simple HTML/CSS tags. It’s hard to find a job that doesn’t require some web skills, but they’re not always looking for someone who can write code in one’s sleep.

We’ve all been there brother. I wish you only the best. This may sound stupid by today’s standards, but when I am looking for work I pound the pavement. If you live in a big city, that’s best. If not, find several places and just go there. If you show up, dressed well, with a good book, you will get into a conversation more often than you might expect. A lot of folks look at just showing up as outgoing and initiative taking. If they are bothered by you showing up, they are probably not going to be fun to work with.

Companies often list web skills along with graphics positions. Often they want someone who works in Word too lol. Many of the Human Resources people just don’t understand that just because I’m good at reproduction does no mean I am good at caricature. They don’t seem to notice any distinction between visual media and the differing skill sets each encompasses.

Feel free to ask for any advice or help. I type too much, but there are some amazing people here with all sorts of experience who are here to support young/fledgling artists and designers.

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