Thursday, August 30, 2012

Graphic Designers: Making the Transition from Print to Web

Many experienced graphic designers are retooling and studying web design to enhance their skillsets to meet the changing expectations of potential employers in the ever-evolving field of graphic design. As I've taught web design courses for over a decade, I've noticed that students who have a background in graphic design often need to shift their expectations when designing for the Web.

I came across an interesting description of this paradigm shift while reading an article about the Evolution of CSS. Here is a summary of the article's description of the difference between print design and web design:

Designing for Print

When designing for print, the designer is in control of:

  • page size
  • content amount
  • fonts and font size
  • pixel-perfect layout

Designing for the Web

When designing for the Web, the designer must configure pages that display on many different types of devices, such as typical desktop monitors, large monitors, small netbook monitors, tablets, smartphones, etc. Also, the designer must allow for varied display conditions, including:

  • screen resolutions
  • aspect ratios
  • font support
  • viewport reszing

Expect the Unexpected

A key point in the article: "Web layout has to be flexible, adaptable, automatic, and robust. It can't fail because it's loaded in an environment that wasn't quite what the designer had in mind... because that happens all the time."

Responsive Web Design to the Rescue

Responsive web design techniques including CSS media queries, flexible images, and relative font sizing (ems and percentages) are essential tools to designing websites that display well on the multitude of varied devices that people use to access web pages. It's a complex, but exciting, time to be a web designer.