A Third Path

There’s a great article over at GOOD talking about a ‘Third Path’ for school leavers, apart from school or university/college. I’ve been having similar thoughts recently – albeit along a slightly different track.

Around Australia (and presumably the world) Universities, TAFEs and Colleges are pumping out design graduates. As a general rule, these graduates seem to have great head knowledge, and produce really high level creative work. In my experience, however, they seem to be lacking a couple of things.

The Problem with Design Graduates

For one, a lack of ‘real world’ experience means that the transition into a workplace with deadlines, constraints, politics and teamwork is a really tough one to make. Uni/College assignments rarely have the same sort of issues at play as when you have a real client to work for.

The second thing I find is that most traditional Design educations don’t do a great job of preparing students for designing for the Web. They are still locked in a mindset of static canvases (preparing designs in Illustrator or Indesign), unaware of the need for websites to be inherently flexible. Very rarely are issues such as interaction (hover states etc), wider or smaller displays, or typeface availability addressed.

For me these factors HAVE to be limiting the usefulness of these students as they try to enter the workforce, particularly if they are set on the Web industry. I’d love to see a ‘Third Path’ as an option for students, where they came out with both ability, and real world experience. There’s a few options I can see working.


We don’t see this happen a great deal in Australia – it seems ‘intern’ is almost a dirty word. But the reality is that it is a great way for students to cut their teeth on real jobs with real constraints.

I strongly believe that these sorts of positions should be paid in some manner – otherwise you run the risk of businesses taking on interns just as a cheap workforce.

The biggest obstacle (ironically) to this is the cost and effort of taking on an intern for the businesses involved. As well as the cost of paying an intern there is the time cost of training, supervising and mentoring an intern.

Alternative Training

There are some great courses/colleges cropping up around Australia who take quite a different approach to the act of training. Tractor Design School (Graphic Design) in Sydney, Old School (design and typography) in Melbourne, and Award School (for copywriters) are pioneering as courses/schools that take a much more intensive, hands-on path to learning.

I’d love to see the creation of some sort of course for the web that teaches Design Principles and applies them to the web. Something small, intensive – and involving working on real-world sites.

Something that teaches the basics of html, css, and javascript and inspires students to push themselves to go beyond the basics.

Some sort of hybrid Front-End-School.


I think it would be interesting to see what a Web Design apprenticeship would look like. A position which combined training and working to take an unskilled individual and train them up, whilst ultimately using them on the job. Its a model that works in many industries – but has never really been utilised in more desk/computer based roles.

There’s a great interview with Dan Mall (from Super Friendly) on the BizCraft podcast where he talks about the two guys who he has working with him in that sort of situation. He has taken them from almost no knowledge to train them up (one in design, one in dev) and work with him.

It’s an inspiring story – but also a model I can see being really useful.

So where does that leave us

So there it is. Three ways I can see that Web Design students can come out with a much more rounded education. Their all different in their scope and difficulty to achieve – but I think they are quite doable.

I’m going to keep thinking about where I can make a difference, and I would love you to do the same.
How do YOU think we can train more rounded Web Designers?

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1 Comment

  1. john allsopp says:

    Interesting thoughts Jordan, and an important issue. One I’ve been thinking quite a bit about, for a long time.

    The area of the web presents particular challenges, being so new, in a state of constant change, with really only a small percentage of its practitioners particularly well versed in current best practice.

    Couple that with the very multi-disciplinary nature of web design, and finding ways to create new professionals is a particular challenge.

    Sadly, I don’t really have an answer! But it’s good to keep thinking about the question 😉


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