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    Hey everyone, I’ve been lurking here and have enjoyed reading about web design on this forum. I thought I’d give a bit of background and then ask for some feedback from the nice people here. Hopefully I’m posting this in the appropriate area.

    Background: after working for many many years as an in-house magazine/ad designer, I’ve been spending the last several months learning web design from the ground up so I can be a graphic designer with skills appropriate to the modern day. I started my web education by studying Flash. Then I got an iPhone and realized, if I design Flash sites, they will not be accessible by all devices. So, I decided to bite the bullet and actually learn HTML and CSS for real. By this point I think I can make some pretty decent sites with just HTML and CSS, and I can also design a site in photoshop, slice it up and code it, etc.

    Of course as I was so busy learning these skills I didn’t realize yet that the world of web design is much more complex than that. I have recently relocated and have been on several interviews for “web designer” positions for local ad/marketing agencies. What I am discovering is that my print background and coding abilities are getting my foot in the door, however those skills are not actually being USED in these jobs. These jobs are consistently CMS based. Ad agencies purchase a Concrete5/Joomla/WordPress template, slightly alter it, then charge thousands (I assume) of dollars to the client. I look at the portfolios of these agencies… all the sites from their clients look pretty much the same. You can tell they are templates.

    I understand the need for this (now) because I realize CMS’s allow someone to work with multiple pages, make global changes, use e-commerce tools, etc. But it’s such a different word from the “graphic design” I was trained in and have worked in for so long.

    When I was working in-house I wouldn’t have dreamed of purchasing a “magazine template” and just moving some things around and changing colors and turning in an article to the publisher. If I was designing an ad, I wouldn’t purchase a template, change a bit of text/swap a photo then give it back to the client and call myself a “graphic designer”. I take a lot of pride in my abilities and experience. The fun part is designing things from scratch. And it seems wrong to me to charge thousands of dollars to a client if all you did was download someone else’s template. What’s the point of being an actual designer if it’s all done for you?

    I am trying to “play the game” though, I’m studying Joomla through (because many companies I’m interviewing with use Joomla, period. No hand coding), and am trying to play around with modX.

    So I suppose I’m just looking for some perspective. Hopefully I don’t sound too elitist here. Is there even a point in being a hand coding/actual web designer when other companies are downloading templates, changing colors and calling it web design? If you got this far, thanks for reading.


    I come form a small shop that prides our work on customization as well. One thing we learned is reusable code doesn’t have to always look the same. It can, however, work the same, but from client to client it’s not as big a deal. We build small to medium websites, and in every project there is some new code, but large parts which are generic or abstract enough we reuse.

    A perfect example of this is:

    Tons of sites built on the same HTML/CSS but you’d never know it.

    It comes down to knowing your tools and bending them to your will.


    Hey richtestani,

    Yeah and it’s the same in print design. If I had a two page spread that was a huge table, full of different colored cells and with several style sheets, I’m not going to rebuild the thing from scratch if I can use it again. But I will still attempt to at least alter it a bit to suit that particular article’s needs.

    I really love the zen garden too.

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