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Do Web Designers Need Drawing Skills? – Killersites Web Design Magazine

Do Web Designers Need Drawing Skills?

Most of the ideas for this series come from actual email questions put to me. Some of the questions delve into the basics of web design, while others may go into more advanced topics.

This time around, I’m answering a question from someone just looking to learn web design, that wanted to know if they needed traditional pen-and-paper drawing skills in web design.

Along the way, I explore a few other similar questions about web design related design skills.

The podcast: Web Design and Drawing (MP3 running time: 4:40)


Stefan Mischook


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9 responses to “Do Web Designers Need Drawing Skills?”

  1. This is by far the podcast that I have been more sensitive to. Allow me to explain. I am a visual artist from School of Visual Arts in NYC. That does not entitle me or gives me any right to contradict your statement on the fact that it is not necessary to know how to draw if one (as I do) wants to become a web designer. However. It is my opinion, a humble one anyway, that having an understanding of basic concepts of space and dimension, color theory, and a general knowledge on the correct expression of visual communication is, if not somewhat important at the least very, very helpful in the field of web design. Take for instance killersites dot com or killerphp dot com. One of the things that make this websites especial is its pleasant visual design. I am just a user and I don’t know how much work has been put into it. But I know for sure that whoever put those CSS files together, had a slight understanding of visual composition. Could this website be as interesting as it is if it was just a bunch of disorganized links and images? maybe, but maybe a user would not find it pleasant to read or navigate. That said, it seems to me that it is much easier to have access to artistic knowledge than it is to the technical knowledge that involves web design, by this I mean that it is much easier to have a concept from a visual communication point of view than from the abstraction inherent to coding and programming. So it is possible that a number of visual artists (like me) wish to use their artistic skills in the composition and design of websites not only from the visual point of view, but also from the programmatic standpoint. In conclusion, the word “design” in web design could be deceiving. Just as designing a machine in Industrial design involves not only the graphical aspects of it but also the technical and scientific ones. In fact I could think of a future where the term web design completely becomes obsolete as technologies continue to grow and become more complex. Probably, it was easy to use the term “radio designer” when radio appear in the early XX century, but as it grew it created new specific professions (sound engineers, radio hosts, etc.). Well, that is just my opinion.

  2. Hi,

    Thanks for the kind remarks regarding killersites.com and killerphp.com – I try.

    “having an understanding of basic concepts of space and dimension, color theory, and a general knowledge on the correct expression of visual communication is, if not somewhat important at the least very, very helpful in the field of web design.”

    I agree, and I am even putting together a video on it. That said, you can get all this without having draw a line.

    … I’ve known fantastic web designers who make stunning pages, but these same people couldn’t draw a tree if there lives depended on it!

    Regardless, it is always good to learn more. So if you are so inclined, learn to draw. But, it won’t do much for your web design.


  3. Right now i am attending Devry University and taking online classes. I am strongly thinking of changing my major to web design which would give me an associates degree. I was then thinking of continuing on to Business Technical Management. My question to you is do the two fields coincide? What type of job can i get? Also what is the salary that one gets when it comes to web design and what is the salary. I actually enjoy drawing i am not an expert but i can draw human faces that definitely have a likeness to their photos. I listened to your pod cast and you said drawinging ability does not matter. With that being said though do you think people that enjoy drawing would be more inclined to a major like web design? Finally i just took a programming class called design and logic which explained pseudocode and variables and flowcharts and arryas and all that. I decided after taking it that i would probably not pursue computer information systems since i did not find it that appealing. But I am wondering with web design is that something that i am going to need to know alot about? Are you dealing with software that is premade for your use or are you dealing with programming which you have to make yourself? Thanks so much for answering any or all of these questions.

  4. Hi Edward,

    When it comes to the ‘design’ in web design, it certainly helps to have that artistic eye. That doesn’t mean you have to be able to draw though … it means you can look at a web page and know that it doesn’t look good.

    But even if you don’t have the artist in you, you can still become a great web designer by leveraging other peoples design skills by using templates or just partnering with good designers.

    For example:

    I know someone who works with a great designer where the designer mocks up the pages in Photoshop and then he takes that and converts it into a web page. As you might have guessed, great web design goes way beyond making the page LOOK good. It also has to be functional and user friendly.

    Web designers are hired based on a portfolio .. not a degree. When I hire web designers, I look to what they’ve done and if it looks good, I test them out. So the key to getting a job as a web designer is all about you building web sites and more web sites.

    … Practice makes perfect!

    Salary depends on your skills and your talent. The more skills you have:

    – HTML, CSS
    – Basic design, Photoshop, Illustrator etc.
    – PHP
    – Flash
    – Javascript

    … the higher your salary and the more likely you will find a job.

    You don’t have to be a guru at all these things. But it is good to know at least a little about everything where you specialize in what you like. That’s why I put out my free videos on PHP at http://www.killerphp.com. I think every web designer should know at least a little PHP.

    In web design you have a wide array of choices when it comes to the software you use. It can be dedicated web design programs like Dreamweaver or just a collection of simple things like notepad and your web browser.

    I would just start with the basics of web design and once you have that under your belt, you will be able to make a better choice based on some knowledge.

    .. It is hard to see where you are going when you’re blind.


  5. Hey thankyou so much for your reply and yes right now i am blind to this but it seems interesting enough to continue forward i just hope i do get a good job since i will have alot in student loans to pay back. But one of the Devry’s gimmicks to get students to attend is to say that they will help get you the interview for the job that you want. So lets hope that happens and once i am in the program that i will start doing my portfolio, i already have some friends who are looking to start websites for their busines’ so maybe they can be my first clients. I am going to check out your video though that you sent and feel free to let us all know about any other videos you have to help us along. Where you located ? Maybe when im doine i can send you my portfolio if your looking for workers hehe…

  6. “. since i will have alot in student loans to pay back.”

    If you are in the US, be very sure to pay off your student loans! They never go away, so don’t mess around with that!!

    “i already have some friends who are looking to start websites for their busines’ so maybe they can be my first clients.”

    Fantastic! This is a great idea. You may for the first site or two have to work for free or at a discount while you develop your abilities … but it is well worth it because you will also be building your portfolio.


  7. Had to leave a note on this! As a Web designer/developer whose greatest background of experience and education is electronics and programming, I find the implementation of a site to be a piece of cake. It’s the design side that kicks me in the butt. I know HTML and CSS to a fare thee well, and my programming background (I’m an MCP) makes javascript and active server technologies fairly transparent. But, even though I spent a year in college as an art major (after burning out on a chem/physics double major coupled with an unpleasant divorce ;-), I face a blank Web page with the same trepidation as a writer with writer’s block faces an empty sheet of paper.
    I’ll agree that drawing skills are not the issue. Given a concept, I can open Photoshop, or Illustrator, or Fireworks, and produce it. To paraphrase James Carvill, “It’s the imagination, stupid!” I guess my lifelong orientation toward the left-brain, technology and hard science side of things has atrophied my conceptual talent to a degree. I can recognize a pleasing site design, and even see why I find it pleasing. It’s just that initial “where do I start” phase that leaves me staring at my blank 3-column liquid layout wondering where to go next.
    I’ve done some pretty nice designs over time. But, none have come easily; all have come after fits and starts (and restarts, and start overs, and… )
    Anyway, for Edward’s sake, I will say this. Regardless of your design (i.e. visual) skills, you MUST know and understand HTML and CSS, well, to enter this line of work. If you want to do any of the nifty “Web 2.0” stuff you see (what a nothing, meaningless marketing term that is, BTW), you’ll also need javascript, and perhaps one of the server technologies such as php or asp/asp.net. Good luck getting started!

  8. I agree with Scott.

    … And to that point, remember the top three rules of programming:

    1. Reuse
    2. Reuse
    3. Reuse

    So when it comes to design, use a template as a starting point and then work out from there.

    Also keep in mind, that event the great artist of this world tend to have a particular style that they rare deviate from.


  9. I couldn’t agree with you more. I have a shortlist of freelancers that I may contract out tasks that may be time consuming or those that are frankly not my forte.
    Included are proofreading, logo design and photography.
    Most, if not all commercial templates are color coordinated anyway. I concentrate on putting all the elements together and working the code and that IS the core of web development.

    web design – 1
    artist block – 0