Art, Design and Code – How did I get here?

I seem to have Expression Studio opened these days more than any other programm  How good a website “acts”, “looks” and “feels” is what I remember.  So how did I get here? 

Looking back I always was attracted to more form than function.  Most of my grade school days were spent doodling into my sketchpads (yes I’d take one around school with me) or spending countless hours staring into the latest artwork of Larry Elmore on my new Dragon magazine or Dragonlance book cover. 

Elmore1   Elmore2

Those days soon began to fill up with countless hours in front of the computer with my Commodore 64 and later Amiga 500.  But even then I would be lost in imagination as I brought my thoughts to life across the canvas of Deluxe Paint.

DeluxePaint  Amiga500

I guess it was school that chose that direction for me.  Computers were programming and art meant having to use clay or charcoal rubbings.  Combine the two?  Are you crazy young man!  If you wanted to work with you computers as your career then you must learn to be an engineer?  In fact on the urging of my guidance counselor I enrolled as a Computer Engineer and set about a path into the realm of Physics, Calculus and Discrete Analysis. 

By the time I figured out how boring that stuff was to me I had already begun my career as a Web Developer.  The year was 1992 and the web was new.  Netscape Mozilla fit on a single 3.5” floppy disk Flashing construction signs could be found on almost every page you would load up.  I connected to the internet over my blazing fast Supra 14400 modem (so much faster than my old C64 300 baud) via a unix command prompt, loaded up WinSock in Windows 3.11 and then the world was mine!

Before I knew it I was out starting my career as a Desktop Technician with a freshly minted diploma and MCSE in NT 4.0.  “Internet Speed” began to occur and technology moved faster than ever.  It seemed like almost every week something new was coming – HTML 2.0, HTML .2 and then HTML 4.0.  Microsoft ASP, Visual InterDev and Dreamweaver.  A new field began to emerge – that of the “Web Programmer” and I road alongside it.  Switching careers entirely from IT Infrastructure and Support to a “Developer”.  I learned the ins and outs of what it meant to be a Microsoft Programmer back then on the web - COM+, MTS, Commerce Server, “The Pipeline”, Sql Server 6.5.  But I started to realize something – as fast as I made the code, as fast as much data the database churned up it was what the actual website itself “looked” like that people remembered.  That story largely remained the same as I moved along the next few years.  Watching the the dotcom bubble burst. moving into the coporate world, creating “architectures” and “frameworks” that were used by developers globally in those companies.  But the stuff I was most proud of?  That stuff still sat in my sketchbook.  It sat on the desktop backgrounds of my machines and in the short stories I would write.

But then something happened.  Just the same way that a “web developer” was born out of the beginnings of a server-client coder so thus became a Rich Internet Application (RIA) developer.  Suddenly worlds of form and function were colliding.  I could actually draw my interfaces instead of coding them.  The tools had caught up too – no longer did I have to spend countless hours debugging script (sorry JavaScript and XMSLT fans I’ve been there it just wasn’t for me).  I know there are other folks out there that have followed this path.  Started out as devs and then got the design bug.  You’re not alone – and there are tons of resources out there today. 

Even if you still love the function over the form a little design knowledge never hurts when it comes to developing compelling experiences.  So I started with the basics…


And then moved up to some design patterns…


The time might just be right to dust off that old sketchbook.  You never know what creativity will come out until you light that first spark.


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