Andy Budd sparked off an interesting discussion yesterday about the sorry state of current web design education. As a student currently studying MA Multidisciplinary Design, and having just graduated from BSc Hons Interactive Multimedia Design, this is a topic that I couldn’t help but comment on.

Andy raises some relevant points and I feel he hit the nail on the head when stating:

We need to create students that are connected to the medium and have an understanding of the provenance of their craft; students who are schooled in critical thinking, who can deconstruct ideas, analyse briefs, solve problems and critique solutions.

Interactive Multimedia Design

The Interactive Multimedia Design (IMD) framework encompasses an array of practices, including video-editing and production, photography, flash, programming and web design. The course is taught jointly by staff from the Faculty of Computing and Engineering, and from the Faculty of Art, Design and the Built Environment — and herein lies the problem.

Course Structure

The course is split into two parts; computing and design. The design classes are taught by Chris Murphy, Nik Persson (of Web Standardistas fame) and a host of other lecturers who are all working and actively engaging within the web design industry. This part of the course teaches “design fundamentals like grid layouts, typography and colour theory” as well as a web standards approach to web design.

The computing and engineering side of the course is quite different. In these modules we were taught JavaScript, PHP and MySQL but also Visual Basic, Director & Lingo. It was often felt that some of these modules were simply in place as a way of assessing us, rather than equipping us with the necessary skills for employment.

A large part of IMD was very much focused on tools and technologies (though the current programme has changed from when I was on the course — I know this from working and demonstrating with the current students). We need a course that focuses purely on equipping students with the fundamentals and principles of design. The technical skills a student learns today are out-of-date tomorrow but design principles are something that will stay with a designer for life.

Moving Forward

I agree with Andy that there’s a need for a web design course, taught by web designers. Here in Northern Ireland The Standardistas are doing a great job at promoting web standards, engaging with the web community and participating in events, such as FOWD and Build.

Belfast is slowly becoming a serious contender in the web design industry with a host of talks, conferences and workshops over the last 12 months – Build, the monthly Refresh events and a series of talks held at UUJ to name a few – I feel Belfast would be a great location for a web design course.

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