Rethinking web design instruction

I’ve taught Web Design for many years now. I started out teaching students how to use the now defunct Adobe GoLive. I realized quickly that wysiwyg editors such as GoLive and Dreamweaver were effectively bad ways to teach students how to build websites, and moved into html and css.

I”m seeing a new trend in web design that may make me rethink how I teach it. It seems that the big open source CMS packages, drupal and wordpress, are taking over high-end website design. If your site isn’t built on one of these two platforms (OK, maybe there are one or two others), it ain’t cutting edge.

This summer I’m undertaking two major site designs, one in drupal and one in wordpress. The drupal one is finished: (assuming they’ve launched it). The wordpress one is under construction.

My hope is to gain a deeper understanding of how to build within these two environments, and begin to shift the focus of my classes from building sites from scratch, to starting with basic CMS templates. This fall, I’m teaching Intro to Web Design again, and my summer projects will definitely bear some weight on the material.


I’m at the typecon conference and a lot of people are talking about how to teach typography in the education forum.

My take: Tap into the love of typography students had when they first learned how to write. My kids all scribbled and stuff, but the revelation came when they learned how to write their names. Nancy, in particular, writes hers all the time now, and puts curly flourishes on the ends of all the letters.

Kids grow up loving to write letters–but usually not the letters they are forced to write by their teachers. They (the interesting ones, anyway) fill the edges of their notebooks with all kinds of funky letters and words.

My conclusion: every typography class should feature a section on hand-lettering. It could be structured like the kind I learned about in my workshop with Stephen Rapp yesterday, or more informal and experimental, like one I would love to teach. Once students reconnect with the fun of letters that they may have lost long ago, typography has hooked them.