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    I’m a relative newcomer to most things web design related, but have been engrossed for a couple of months now. Thus far I’ve mainly been focusing on CSS – An example of the early fruits of my labours can be viewed here – Design Instruct Template – a template tutorial which I coded.

    I’m now wishing to focus more on the design side a little. Either my impatience is kicking in, or it’s an early case of designer’s block, but I’m struggling to feel confident I have a solid plan of action for improving my design skills.

    The biggest issue I seem to have is despite feeling like I have a good eye for design, and thus able recognise quality work, I’m unable to create it myself. When I get into photoshop I’m left thinking ‘I wish I was able to think/create a design like that’.

    There are plenty of tutorials out there, although from what I’ve seen not a vast number that take you to the level of the sites you might see on CSS mania for example. Thus I’m feeling a little stumped.

    I’ve hardly been in the game long, so shouldn’t be too critical on myself. I feel I need a bit of a roadmap, rather than randomly selecting random tutorials which may or may not be useful when I want to design my own stuff.

    Super whizz designers out there, how did you get better with thinking up and creating quality designs? What sort of tutorials did you focus on? I wish to improve both technically and creatively.

    The blank canvas is currently scaring me!

    Many thanks!


    Hey Konner, I know exactly what you mean, I currently spend more time helping others than doing my own stuff, it’s gets really frustrating, best thing to do I’d trawl through web design blogs and CSS galleries, my favourites are and

    Stick with it and keep a notepad and pencil with you at all times



    kg – Were there any resources specifically that you went to when you got stuck wishing to recreate something you liked on a website?

    There are forums of course to ask questions, but those I’ve been to, you either get very flaky replies or no replies at all. In fact this ‘forum’ even though it’s very simple looks to be more vibrant.

    I’d love to make some friendships to learn from other designers and get positive feedback. Bit of a catch 22, the top designers who you would like to learn from are always likely to be extremely busy.



    I’m not a ‘top designer’ ,by any means, but I remember being in the exact same spot you (Konnor) are in now.

    Helpful tip i read (maybe on smashing magazine) was to not jump straight into Photoshop first. Start with pad and pencil and sketch out layouts and make lots of notes. I usually go as far as to shade and/or give texture to elements of my design before I start with Photoshop.

    Read non-web design related material every now and then that you can draw inspiration from. Hit up a museum or look at old graphic design books at your local library.

    Just keep pressing on & you’ll eventually look back and laugh at your old designs and be proud of your current ones. I know I do.

    Good luck,



    @Konnor Really good post as it highlights the anxieties many people feel when entering this area. Given its popularity, I still think it is bordering on incredible that there are no degree based courses (that I know, at least) that merge coding and designs principles with much merit. Good thing, though, is that there is some well structured and affordable online tutorials, and a really helpful web community (like here), that can give you confidence to grow. I always mark my favorite sites and try to identify what appeals and why. It also important to design with a purpose or you will be just creating empty templates. Well done for asking the question. I’m a newbie too :)


    Good stuff. As with anything it takes practise I suppose.

    A helpful skill right off the bat I think is recognising what looks good or shit. Whilst not being able to create sites in the same league as on CSS Beauty, I can marvel at the quality and what makes the designs look slick. So it’s the process I need to get more familiar with.


    Two responses.

    1. You are not yet a graphic designer, accept this. This is a skill easily admired but hard to master. Be willing to work with a graphic designer, you will suddenly look so much more professional if working off a pro’s comp. Wearing all the hats at once is tricky, even though you need to be familiar with them all, you also need to focus on your strengths. Your clients will be very happy if you say to them ” I do the coding, and work with a graphic designer who can deliver you the designs and UI that speak to your business”. To steal from Mitch Hedberg, assuming a stand up comedian can be an actor is like telling a chef to be a farmer.

    2. Learn,absorb, observe. Abuzeedo is my favorite. As is screenfluent


    You know, everyone has moments when designing doesn’t come easy and it isn’t…it’s very competitive. But our community is also supportive which helps (e.g. Dribbble). For whatever reason it seems that a lot of newcomers think it comes without practice and that’s false. It’s hard work that takes time. You’re going to produce bad work that’s inevitable in the beginning.

    I struggled with my own identity for a long time. I just made it my goal one day to finish my logo that I was putting off that eventually took me just a few hours. I believe it’s important to jump right in and not just sit at your desk thinking without applying ideas. My inspiration comes from mainly typographers, New York, and retro things. I’m not a big fan of inspirational sites.



    Working with a graphic designer/web designer would accelerate the process. Finding one on a limited budget that has free time would be tricky….. Any tips?

    ‘Jack of all trades master of none’ springs to mind. In my mind I’d like to improve on typography, illustrator logo design, wordpress, CSS and graphic design. I’m trying to integrate what I’d like to know, with an interesting project of building a website but am finding I’m skimping on the theory.

    Woo-saa. There is time…


    I it easy finding a graphic designer? A reliable, on-call professional that is ready to work for you and turns around work on a dime? Tough. But somewhere between your local Craigslist and hanging out at the community college art classroom, there’s someone at your level you can at least hang out with. They may need a website.

    I haven’t had the best luck with the professional-by-hire websites where you post your gig and people bid on it, I don’t outsource farther than the distance it takes to have lunch together (about 40 miles). I take that back, sometimes I will buy templates or animations or graphics packs from a place like theme forest/istock photo, and those sometimes do come from out of the country (and I’ve had great success with those).

    Sounds like you already have an idea of your focus, and if your desire is to design and do Illustrator, then start learning that. There are more video tutorials that focus on your area of expertise than there is time in the day. Podcasts, Lynda, this new company I keep seeing (linked at the top of this page), whatever floats your boat. Read, read, read. A List Apart. Smashing. Start looking at magazines differently. Take a class at the local college, surround yourself with creatives, get access to free computers and software and go to your teacher’s office hours. Then hire out the work you have tried but don’t really do so well or don’t care to do at all.

    They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in something, so get crackin’

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