Web design is a very cross-disciplinary subject, and it changes all the time. This makes it very hard to teach. Certainly, an introductory course in basic HTML/CSS is necessary. From there, I believe more general instruction in graphic design is required, with an emphasis on typography, layout, and visual problem solving. Writing-heavy courses are also important, not only for writing copy, but for communicating design solutions effectively. Finally, I believe a sound understanding of object-oriented programming is extremely helpful for modern Web designers/developers, and will only become more important in the future.
Students should be educated in both. It is important for designers to be able to communicate with developers, and a knowledge of object-oriented programming will help Web designers remain relevant as Web technology inevitably shifts. For students focused on development, an understanding of basic graphic design principles will allow them to work and communicate with designers more effectively.
If you could create your dream curriculum for web design and development, what courses and information would you include? Why? What courses and information now in such programs would you eliminate? Why?
I would include the following courses:
- An introductory HTML/CSS course
- An introductory graphic design course
- An introductory computer science course, focusing on OOP principles, data structures, and simple algorithms
- A more advanced HTML/CSS course, focusing on layout techniques, creating complex designs, and a discussion of future trends in CSS.
- An art history course covering some important figures and movements in the history of graphic design. Focus on movements such as constructivism and figures such as Ladislav Sutnar (whose catalog work closely resembles modern Web design), and Paul Rand. Course would be writing-heavy.
- An intermediate computer science course, focusing on program design and architecture. Would include significant programming projects, likely web-based.
- An intermediate graphic design course, focusing on typography, layout techniques such as grids, color theory, etc.
- A capstone HTML/CSS course, involving several design projects in which complete Web sites would be developed, perhaps on behalf of non-profits to allow for real-world client interaction.
- A capstone programming course, focusing on algorithms, particularly those relevant to the Web. Would entail a significant programming project of the student’s own design.
- Elective courses covering topics such as Adobe Flash, filmmaking, databases, operating system user interfaces, etc
I would remove anything that focuses too specifically on languages, software packages, or techniques that are likely to become obsolete within a few years.
Projects that the individual completed outside of school. Anything that shows passion for design or a particular Web-related topic.
Several strategies come to mind. Teaching professors must update curriculum every semester to remain current with the field. Guest lecturers from the field could be brought in to inspire students to pursue specific topics. Finally, professors should be active members of the Web design and development community, keeping up to date and making contributions as well.