Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

Interactive Design is a Team Sport

In the early days of the Web, it was not uncommon for companies to say they wanted to hire someone who knew HTML, Photoshop, JavaScript, Java, SQL, Cold Fusion, PHP, etc.

As the Web grew and people became more sophisticated, it was understood that there was a division of labor on the Web and that someone might know a lot about JavaScript without knowing anything about Java, and vice versa.

This post, which first appeared in February of 2009, addressed the fact that, sadly, there are still some people out there who think that if someone knows one Web technology, then they probably know them all.

2212455873_f6e4853b1b_m.jpgI wrote a post here advocating greater transparency in the staffing business and someone left the following comment:

“Graphic design is a tough business. That being said, seeing positions posted for a web designer that knows Flash, web design, and print design for the jaw-dropping salary of 35K isn’t going to cut it. That is senior-level design knowledge.”

I couldn’t help but agree with this individual, and not just because recent salary data published by Robert Half puts starting salaries for graphic designers at $36K, with motion graphics specialists commanding salaries starting in the mid-$50Ks.

I thought that we had put the days of kitchen-sink web positions well behind us. Overlooking the significant and long-acknowledged differences between print and web design, a position description like the one above indicates a failure to recognize that certain sub-specialties of web design, as one might consider Flash, for example, have actually become viable career options in their own right.

Interactive design has always been a team sport precisely because it is interactive. The web is undeniably a visual medium, hence the importance of visual design in the creation of websites. But a web site must function in addition to looking pretty and the technical complexity of its functioning demands skills and expertise that are more math than Matisse, if you know what I mean.

The classic division of labor on web projects has always been design AND development. Although most designers will have some technical chops, and developers, on the front-end anyway, will understand design basics, this just means they can communicate and collaborate with each other, not that they are interchangeable. Indeed, they are less interchangeable than ever as the “classic” division of yesteryear has been replaced by today’s “baroque” arrangement of sundry strategists and marketing mavens corralling a shifting constellation of user experience specialists, designers, copywriters, Actionscripters, programmers, and analysts, and more.

I know that money is tight and that the web is critical to everyone’s efforts. Nevertheless, you don’t do yourself or your business any favors by trying to cut costs by hiring one person to do the work of four (or more). Instead, you will be better served by starting with a comprehensive plan for your web efforts, which may in the end be “owned” by one person, and then hiring talented specialists on a project or contract basis to bring the plan to life. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it ALWAYS takes a team to create good web stuff.

Image Courtesy of elvissa.

Category: Bloggings, Design, Emerging Media

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