My good friend Mitch Goldstein (or @mgoldst as you may know him) has asked if I'd give a talk to his graphic design students in a class he's teaching at Rhode Island College. I sat in those very halls a few too many years ago than I care to remember - but since that's where I got my start (designing and developing the College's first web site), it seemed like a great opportunity. He's asked me to cover a lot of ground, but since I've been carrying on about web strategy a lot lately, it seemed like a good chance to work out some of my ideas for a course on the subject. Here's the introduction I've sent along. I hope that it's helpful to others. I plan to make the presentation available as well after the class in a few weeks.
Please comment! I think it's really important that we start teaching these concepts to design students. While it may be a while before they develop all the skills and perspective necessary to be effective strategists – if we don't plant the seeds, no future will grow.
The Space Between Pixels: Design Thinking, Web Strategy & Why You’ll Never Get a Job Without Them
Graphic design is about story-telling, communication and organizing information – in any way required. It's about meeting challenges and solving problems for your client. It's about providing the solution. It's also about empathy: being able to understand the needs of your client, their business and their customers. This began with logos, letterhead and one of the most popular forms of advertising dating back over 100 years: the poster. It's gotten more complicated.
Since the advent of the World Wide Web in 1993 it's meant that there's a lot more to think about as a designer when it comes to incorporating the web into solutions you provide to your clients or at the company where you work. Web standards, technology, social media, search engine rankings – the list goes on. How you look at and tackle all of this collectively (and how it all affects your client's business) is what I refer to as web strategy.
The notion of Web Strategy is something that is still emerging as a skill or discipline in and of itself. It's formed by understanding the client's business needs and processes and internet technologies so thoroughly that you can see where new connections can be made, new efficiencies revealed and new experiences defined. This happens by design. Your ability to use design to tell that story, communicate that strategy and organize that content tie those disparate parts of an organization together through visual and textual metaphors. You're not just building a web site – you're fundamentally changing the way the client's business functions. It's a big job – and you may not always be playing more than a small part, but unless you have a solid grasp of what that bigger picture is, you run the risk of never being as effective as you truly can be as a designer.
[NOTE: If there is interest after the talk, I'm happy to make my slides available. Email, @ me or post in the comments below - Jason]