Old School


Ahh the good old days of Flash 4 and Netscape 4.7 – the best browser ever

Is it me or have web development jobs become very specialized? Specialization is defnitely good sometimes – you don’t want a team of mediocre people just ok at everything. It just seems when I mention a floating div to a flash animator, they just stare blankly at me and blink.
I’ve come to realize that I am from the old school (like many of my collegues) . I was never taught HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, MySQL, Flash animation or Actionscripting 1 & 2. Grandpa voice: When I was in college there were no interactive courses, and we had to work on computers with 32 MB of RAM. We checked our email through command line programs like PINE and MM….
……. and I rode 2 miles to class on a donkey.

Another reason for my perspective is obviously my environment. First off, for interactive design, you either get it, or you don’t get it. Just like art (and interactive design can be art, but I’ll save that discussion for another day). Most of the people I went to design school with didn’t get it. They didn’t get why I was installing the Flash 3 player and why I thought Urban Desires was so damn amazing (somethine like this was ground-breaking in 1997). In a nutshell, there were no interactive designers and I had to teach myself.
In my senior year of college the head of the design program said he had a job in NYC for me, if I knew HTML. I partially lied and said, sure I knew HTML. The truth was the only HTML I knew was from the handful of tutorials I was taking on WebMonkey. I had never built a website.
When I got hired at Dan Miller Design in 1999, my first web project was to design and build the site for the documentary film Shadow Boxers. I was able to get through it with the help of Dreamweaver and constant nagging of the senior web designer at DMD. Once I had completed Shadow Boxers, I was asked if I knew Macromedia Flash 4. I said sure. A month later I designed and built Art Base Inc (I’m amazed both these sites are still up, if you view the source to Art Base, the Flash version is still 4!).
I decided that I was now going to strictly be an RGB designer. No more CMYK.
From DMD and the other companies I moved on to, it was a constant learning process and never having the luxury of large teams for web projects. It was always just me, or me and a few other people working on a project. I never experienced the glory days of the DotCom bubble everyone recounts. As Flash become more and more essential in web design, I realized that I needed to learn how to make my life easier and so I learned how to automate things with Actionscript. The fact that I learned how to parse XML within Flash had nothing to do with client requests – it was to save my ass time when I had to update Anything to avoid opening up Flash again to change a few sentences. And the concept of separating form from content with CSS just made sense.
I also bring this up, because I’m also in the process of finding new homes for many of my freelance clients and I’ve found it difficult to hand them over to one person who can help them with design AND development. Someone that can design an email newsletter AND use Campaign Monitor to send out the blast.
Update: Luckily Jory at Analogue has stepped up to the plate and has the skills to pay the bills and uh, navigate the terrain over interactive hills….
So I guess I’m wondering – What and how do people learn web design and development these days? Is code still scary to a lot of people? Is money good enough to specialize within the field web design into areas like Flash Video Designer or HTML Expert?
Are there people out there that still design – inside and out?