Slis  Screenshots 1500x786

Breaking Free of the Page: Applying Traditional Design Skills to the Web: Ashley Kozak

As a designer, I work based upon a process that allows me to become inspired and evolve my work until it is acceptable. (This sounds like a low bar, but designers have high standards.) Having developed a design process that worked for me and allowed me to produce results, I’m sure one could imagine my inner turmoil when I had to design outside of what had become my personal procedural safety-zone!

My exploration of the web design process began at IdeaBase upon joining the team assigned to redesigning the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) website, now live at www.kent.edu/slis. This project was especially exciting because it was going to be the first custom template design in Kent State’s new content management system, but what I learned from the SLIS website redesign project really came down to adapting to differences in process that resulted not only from working on a real-world project, but also from needing to present to and work with a team of non-graphic designers and clients.

Shaking Up the Traditional Design Process

Typography and Colors – The simple version of the basic academic design process which I became accustomed to consisted of research, sketching, designing (compositions), and lots of critiquing and modification until the projects end. However, differences in our group design process began to emerge after the sketching step when I was directed to first design page elements (navigations, header, footer, image carousel, etc.) for the SLIS website as opposed to designing whole pages.

Seemingly simple, this initially really messed with my mind. I had become used to designing firm, whole compositions to show, but for this project I had to first present to the client design fragments while trying to imagine a future whole, or many possible wholes. I felt like I was trying to sell fragments of glass instead of a whole window! I remember thinking during this step that this process was very odd, although I can see now that this preliminary design step allowed the team to get feedback from SLIS on the design’s basics—color, type, and structures—before designing more in- depth. Also, this modular point of view allowed us to test in-browser faster and helped me think more as I would imagine a developer thinks and works—in pieces (of code).

Buttons and Navigation – This brings me to another point of the design process which was different for me: witnessing how the design changes by necessity in a browser setting (aka, practical web design versus theoretical classroom web design). I never realized how important this would be in the process. For example, originally the design for this website featured more angles. However, the viability of CSS triangles often became unworkable, and so I had to come up with new solutions. It was after witnessing how page elements change between different screen sizes in the browser setting that I started to really understand how a responsive design works.
Lessons Learned

In short, I learned A TON by being lead designer on this project! I suppose the main takeaway of my experience for me, though, was understanding that design and development had to become a blended process for the website to function and communicate better, and be visually suitable. Shaking up my process to understand and work better with my team gave me insight that I would not have gained otherwise.

Everyone should venture outside of their comfort zone every once in a while.