Many of you might know Petr van Blokland as a lover of type. With his brother Erik and with Just van Rossum, he supported the creation of the python based font editor RoboFont by Frederik Berlaen, providing a user friendly tool to draw and modify typefaces. Being not only a designer but also a programmer enabled him to implement his projects from sketch to finished product. Having the full control over the execution of his drafts improved his work as designer tremendously. That might be the reason why he is so passionate about encouraging all web designers to take matters into their own hands and start to learn programming.
Straight talking: learning to program will definitively consume a lot of your time and brainpower in the beginning. But once you start to see patterns, it will just feel like learning any other language. The key: practice, practice and tenacity. The good thing about programming? You can use libraries like Middleman, Cactus, or Xierpa3 (an open source library created by Petr van Blokland himself) that can save you a lot of time by automizing your work.Moreover, developing not only the front but also the backend of your projects, allows you to connect to real data from a very early stage in the project. This will put your design to the test and help you figure out flaws as soon as possible.
Why going through all this hustle? Van Blokland boils it down pretty good asking “where does design start and end anyways”? For him, the designer is not only responsible to make a digital publication look great, but also to design the process and make sure all the parts included come together just how they need to, in order to make the final result look and work great.
My personal take away: get out of your comfort zone and learn as many tools as you can in order to understand what’s happening in the whole process from draft to finished product.
If this doesn’t scare you but got you all excited, start learning Python or Ruby with codecademy today and check out Xierpa3 for your next web project.
Text — Marlene Schufferth