[nycphp-talk] Working with designers
Paul A Houle
paul at devonianfarm.com
Thu Aug 20 10:43:16 EDT 2009
Yitzchak Schaffer wrote:
> Hello all,
> I discovered a great resource a few months back:
> One post in particular, http://bit.ly/designers-developers , got me
> thinking about workign with designers. Since we have no design staff
> in our shop per se (the technical office of an academic library), my
> PHP sidekick and I put together whatever designy elements we need for
> our sites.
> After reading this article, I'm left wondering: what are the basics of
> working with designers? I wasn't even familiar with the term "comp"
> that's being used in the post and comments. Where can one learn the
> fundamental assumed communication patterns, role & workflow
> expectations, etc. that go along with this relationship? What is a
> developer meant to do after being handed a PSD?
> Many TIA!
A "designer" can mean very different things.
Some "designers" are very good at drawing and painting. My wife,
for instance, occasionally does corporate identity work for smaller
businesses that want a really original logo. She prototypes with pencil
and paper and only converts to a digital vector format late in the process.
Other "designers" are good with tools like photoshop and
illustrator. Some of them can draw and some can't. An eye for
composition, colors, and choosing fonts can get you a long way.
Most "designers" aren't that creative. That's not a bad thing,
because copying elements of other people's work helps create a 'design
vocabulary' that people understand. That's why so many cars you see in
showrooms today steal the blockiness of the new Dodge Charger or the
roofline of the Toyota Prius. These elements communicate a message that
people understand. Movies are made up out of bits and pieces of older
movies because it's quite difficult to tell a story visually in a way
that viewers will understand if you don't build on shared experience.
Some "designers" are great at making print material. There's
something to say for having a corporate identity that's consistent
across print materials such as advertising and business cards and on the
I know a "designer" who's an absolute CSS and HTML wizard; He even
knows a little PHP and Ruby on Rails. I wouldn't trust him with data
modeling, but he's got a good sense of what's possible and what's
maintainable on the web, and he'll produce you a "look" that works on
the web, loads fast, is compatible across browsers, etc -- he's the
A critique I have of a lot of designers I work with is that they
tend to think in terms of static images, not things that are
parameterizable. For instance, not a single designer that I've worked
with who's designed a login form has considered the question of "what
does the login form look like if somebody enters the wrong password?"
Often they're pretty puzzled when I push the design back to them with
that question, and, except in one case, I've always had to improvise
an answer to that myself.
I worked for 5 years at a very political sort of organization where
my first task was converting the new homepage design (a PSD) to HTML,
images and CSS. It took some aggressive tricks to pull the design off
and we were all proud of it when it was done. Well, the page aged
poorly over 5 years, and by the time I left that job I wasn't so sure
if I wanted to point to it on my resume. Every part of the organization
wanted to have it's own link (or a bunch of links) on the home page and
that pressure caused the site to degenerate rapidly -- it became a site
for sore eyes.
An excellent design anticipates that kind of change.
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