Getting Comfortable with "Design"

From a young age, I was uncomfortable with anything that might be labelled "visually creative". Drawing: discomfort. Coloring: extreme discomfort. Cutting things out and gluing them on a piece of paper: also uncomfortable. All through my school years, homework assignments to color in a map or illustrate a story would set my stress levels soaring. Many projects were completed on time only because my mother was patient enough to help me color in between the lines (thanks mom!).

I don't know what caused this crippling insecurity in me, but for whatever reason, I have always steered away from jobs, hobbies, and activities that had to do with being "visually creative". Then, one day I decided to quit my job as an advertising sales rep and become a Front End Web Developer. I had learned HTML, CSS, and some Javascript along with some Wordpress and thought, "this is much more interesting and fun than selling car dealers paid search advertising." I figured I could learn to code and that would be it. I'd have a new, lucrative career working remotely or as a freelancer making all the money I needed. Designers would pass designs to me and all I'd have to do is code them. "Perfect!" I thought, because of course I dragged my discomfort of being visually creative with me into the world of web design.

Well now, three years into my career, I think I can finally say I am coming to terms with Design and Creativity. I've found that as I spend more time with websites and with designers, I am beginning to have some opinions about how things appear visually. I even have done some small design work myself (GASP). I've found that there are some rules and guidelines for making things look good. And, fortunately for me, there are no crayons involved in web design.

While I once thought I would be a developer --or maybe even an Engineer™--because I was scared of design, I realize now that all the things that I find fun and satisfying about front end development are design-related, not computer-sciency. I enjoy picking out typefaces and setting a modular scale on a new site. I like developing flexible, responsive patterns that look good and function on varying devices and screen sizes. I like pairing colors. I especially enjoy creating and working with design systems and pattern libraries.

I like creating order.

Even on the code side of things, I like to make it organized, I want to make a code base make sense. I want code to be readable and intelligible. I'm not really interested in why Elixir is faster than Ruby, but I am interested in how to refactor code so that developers can work together more efficiently. Ask me to refactor your PHP for better performance and I will pretend I didn't hear you, but ask me what ways of writing Sass or naming colors can simplify a project and reduce development cost.

I'm realizing that in the sense that design creates order out of chaos and is about doing something on purpose--that's the side of design that I am very comfortable with and it's helping me start to come to terms with design and seeing myself not just as a coder or programmer or developer but as a web designer.