Today’s Obsession: You Don’t Know Jack

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A couple of unrelated, yet related posts I’ve found: Adrian Shaughnessy lists ten things he observes most commonly in current design students and graduates. There are three things that give me chills. He says in point five:

It is getting harder to tell the difference between the work of students studying illustration and those studying graphic design.

And then in point seven:

Few students seem interested in web design. Most admit to being print fixated.

And then he contradicts this total lack of curiosity he sees with this tired old nugget I hear from design educators all the time:

I still hear professional designers and studio bosses complaining that students are not emerging as oven-ready employees. This is often true. Some students have no concept of—or interest in—the professional realm. But it is also true that many are more advanced, forward thinking and future-proofed than the studios demanding graduates with “real world expectations.”

Letting schools off the hook by congratulating themselves for producing “more advanced, forward thinking” designers is a straw man. Nobody can prove they’re producing designers so advanced they simply don’t need to know how to work.

There’s a huge difference between expecting an “oven-ready employee” (come on—nobody expects that) and expecting a fresh grad to have the slightest bit of production skill. When design was print-only, there was never an expectation that a designer would leave school without understanding production, but now? Employers are faced with a bumper crop of designers who have not the slightest concept of how the web’s technology could inform what they make.

On the flipside of that coin, Jessica Hische and Russ Maschmeyer have started a wonderful little site explaining to beginners what production for the web is all about. Young designers, take heed: this is not optional information. It’s rare that a web shop would be willing to hire a designer who has no idea how HTML/CSS and JavaScript work together. Friendly and easy to understand, these guides are a good place to start.