When I started out as a Graphic Design professional in the late 70s, all we cared about were design concepts through typography, color, art and images. I wasn’t overly concerned with design systems until I began working professionally. Client work introduced me to the synchronicity of design communication. However, my sweet spot had always been book cover design, illustration, iconography, signage and other single panel projects.

In the late 90s, early 2,000s I began teaching a Visual Concepts course at UArts in Philadelphia. I had always admired the Graphic Design department there, but this position was in the MultiMedia department where I’d be working with a new breed of art student. These were kids that had been raised with the screen. Their aesthetic came came from digital media. They spoke differently about their work than I remembered in art school. They talked about interfaces and coding languages. Color theory and type sensitivity were secondary. Remarkably, we got along famously. I was craving to know more about how they worked, and they me. I was hooked, and it was easily the most educational 6 years of my professional life.

One of the important lessons for me were the understanding that there would be a sizable leap to making my graphic design background transition effectively to design for web media. For starters, it took me quite a while to relax my standards and know that the browser was a changing and wildly imperfect environment. As you can imagine, that had me working hard to develop CSS skills so I had as much control as possible. Still all of those counter-intuitive steps were weighing me down. I was accustomed to working through design iterations. Building and testing was a very new step.

While I learned to love the idea of building, it was never quite the jolt that I got from art and design. Still, if I wanted to serve the client, I needed to offer web solutions. That’s about when I discovered WordPress. Around 2008-2009, started to work with Expression Engine as a CMS. When we started to look more closely at WordPress, we saw huge possibilities. That said, the thing I was most impressed with was the WordPress community. I was smitten with how the dev community were constantly creating tools to help with different needs. One of those needs was how we design in WordPress. While there is and endless offering of design and development tools, I just wanted to take a minute and look at some of those tools that we use.




Basic Design Objective
This may be stating the obvious, but set-up a simple goal for the site. Is your site a Brochure, E-commerce, Portfolio or an Academic site?
Keeping it Simple
Always work towards elegant solutions, even if you content is anything but elegant.
Site Overview on Landing Page
Greet the user with a range of offerings. Try to tell the story of the contents through the landing page.
Unearth Iconography
The screen is a fickle mistress. Readers tend to scan web pages. Iconography can be a way to deliver quick references and bring the reader deeper into the site in an instant. Plus, they look great.
Working with the Browser
Be sure to accommodate the design and content with the limitations of the browser. Make stuff that works and just so happens to look fantastic.
Designing for Clients
The client is an integral part of the process. Make them happy. Strive to give them what they want, but guide them. Protect them from themselves.
Trust the Power of Images
Images have great leverage. Use it. Spend less time crafting complex functionality and more understanding how to speak through the art.
Constant Search for New Tools
Things change and they change rapidly. What works today may be ineffective next week. Watch trends and progress in tools and solutions. Read reviews and get insight. Most importantly, try things out.
Experiment and Self Publish
While free time is hard to come by, take the time to explore new methods both on the screen and away from it. Don’t wait for the client to present a problem to solve. Invent your own early and often.
Designing for Mobile
As much as I want to design for the desktop, mobile views force us to think of all views at once. Allow the content to scroll and respond. Many clients still ask for content above the fold. Gently explain to them that those days have passed.
Drive Consistency
The site generally wants to be a series of design and information events. Design so that they belong. Create a system.
Leverage Typography
Typography can sometimes be the brick and mortar of your website. Try not to overlook how text comes across. Words have impact when they display as form.