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  • December 22, 2011

Holiday Gifts For the Young Web Designer Who Doesn’t Have It All

The field of web and application design is deep into a fantastic and complex evolutionary stage. Browsers have adopted more support than ever for the same standards, Decorative Illustration yet the bleeding edges of those standards are constantly staining our screens with new approaches to the ways we interact with information. Platforms, frameworks, methods, and opinions about them are myriad. It can all be a little intimidating for someone just getting off of the school bus.

We asked the whole Happy Cog family to think about the rookies in our field: the students, interns, and first year designers just getting up to speed in this brave new world. To quote a great philosopher, “People say the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” But, how do we teach them well? If you could pick one indispensable tool that you would gift to a newly budding web designer for the holidays, what would it be?

Here’s what they had to say.

Tools of the Trade

A computer. You need one of those. – Jenn Lukas

A subscription to rdio. If “newly budding” web designers are anything like this old project manager, they need music to do good work. The desktop and iPhone apps are great and the selection of music keeps getting better. – Brett Harned

A professional training budget. And we have one. :) – Greg Hoy

A twitter account. Follow excellent resources like @envatowebdev, @real_css_tricks, @alistapart, @paul_irish, @methodandcraft, @thenerdary, @sixrevisions and read the articles they post. – Allison Wagner

A subscription to the New York Times. Invaluable to everyone, really, but particularly to aspiring young professionals looking to stay balanced; teaches layout, content curation, and editorial style, informs on world news, and, most importantly, provides perspective. With the subscription including both print and digital access, designers can glean insights into how the NY Times team chose to translate their stories from print to digital—something they’ll be tasked with regularly. – Rawle Anders

A ticket to a museum. Observe how a space fills with people of all different shapes and sizes, all manner of abilities and disabilities, engaging with content that answers and raises questions, and provides contextual information and theoretical ideas crucial to understanding and learning. Ponder. Then get a coffee and maybe a tasty slice of pie and think about how crucial it is to take a break from your day to day routine. – Kevin Sharon

Hands-on Experience

Observing a usability test conducted on a site you’ve designed. It will humble you and open your eyes to user experience. – Jess Ivins

An internship, a co-op, any kind of first-hand work experience. Often what sets apart stunningly talented professional designers (whether new to the industry or long-tenured) is not their talent, but their professionalism. Work with other people and clients, figure that out. – Joe Rinaldi

A great project that’s just beyond their comfort level. Enough to drive them to learn new things but comfortable enough that they’re not biting off more than they can chew. – Mark Huot

The Gift of Knowledge

A mentor; find someone that you can learn from and who is willing to patiently share their knowledge and war stories. Why, Philadelphia’s own PhilaMade would be a great organization to potentially find one! – Chris Cashdollar

Ask questions! When I started out, this terrified me. The more questions you ask, the stronger your work will be. Ask yourself questions too. What am I strong at? What do I need to work on? What do I enjoy working on the most? – Yesenia Perez-Cruz

The ability to ask questions and talk with the team. From my time working with Happy Cog, I have totally appreciated that the designers are always willing to listen and push themselves to work with the client and team. – Blythe Goodell

Hitting the Open Road

The ability to attend an inspiring and enlightening web conference. – Jeffrey Zeldman

A ticket to a good, small/medium-sized conference, preferably as far from where they already live as possible. Meeting new people in an environment where everyone is unfamiliar with their surroundings forces the group to bond in order to forage for food and fun. That foraging leads to conversations regarding the way other people think about what they do, and how they do the things that they think about. – Kevin M. Hoffman

Drive and Determination

Fire in their bellies. Students and young professionals right out of college have more free time and more guts to try new things than us old folk. I’d love some of that free time back so I could create something new, invent something interesting, or design a product/app/service that didn’t exist before me. – Brian Warren

Self determination. Too many times new designers turn into followers which means they’re designing like everyone else, coding like everyone else, using the same applications. Borrring! Take the path less traveled and enjoy the education and confidence-building along the way. – Greg Storey

A sense of humility and an eagerness to learn. Too many newbies come out of college thinking they know everything, which may have been true among their peers, but isn’t true in the real world and with clients. Being able to admit what you don’t know is key. – Helenita Frounfelkner

Never consider yourself an expert. As soon as you do, you lose the motivation to learn. – Matt Clark

The Intangibles

The wisdom to know when to remove distractions and focus on their work. – Drew Warkentin

Curiosity. Of course, be curious about code and design, how it was built, why it works, and why it works well. But also a basic curiosity about the world in general. Nothing we make exists in a vacuum and a greater understanding of that helps you grow as a person as well as a web worker. – Stephen Caver

Patience to understand that most people sitting across from you don’t know or can’t see solutions the way that you do. – Dave DeRuchie

Learn team play. Despite being in the era of “personal brands,” great teams still do great things; not just individuals. – Ryan Irelan

Patience. Try to make the most of everyday. Take your time. Pay your dues! And fill those inspiration coffers. Soak in everything around you. You’ll appreciate it 10 years from now. – Michael Johnson

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