Thoughts on Web Design Education

In reply to Paul Boag. Some thoughts from a self-taught freelancer.

Web design education is a topic that’s bugged me a lot in the past.

Paul Boag suggests running courses like design agencies, which makes perfect sense to me.

I would go a half-step further and take a leaf from the book of one musical instrument construction college. Students pay for the first year, during which they are given training, then get more years free, where the products they make are sold by the college.

I would amend this so that after the staff’s wages are paid and any other college expenses are covered, profits get divided up between the students who made the product — a little bonus never goes amiss.

This could also work in a similar way to primary schools being feeder schools for secondaries. The training agency could be a ‘feeder agency’ to commercial agencies. After a student has paid for their training and done a few years of mentored work, they could feed into a vacancy at a commercial agency.

The Thing Is…

I think this is a great idea, and I bet loads of students would be really into it. But I don’t think it’s suited to everyone.

Web design is traditionally a skill that’s self taught. I’m self taught (apart from an OCR national *shivers* where I “learnt” HW TO MK ANIMATED BANNERS IN ADOB FIREWRKS!!!!111). Pretty much all the other designers I know are mainly self taught too.

I think this route to web design is an extremely important one and should not be replaced but supplemented by mentoring.

Mentoring = School - meaningless paperwork

Just having someone who knows what they’re doing to point a self-learner in the right direction is invaluable.

If I could mentor the 2009 version of me, I would have used flexible layouts and css , semantic classnames, better named db tables… etc. I would have done everything differently and better. I’m sure if me from now + 3years could mentor the now ‘me’, he’d tell me to do a load of other stuff.

In Conclusion

I think both approaches have great appeal. If I could choose only one of them, I’d choose mentoring.

Someone called Anna who I think might be Anna Debenham but I’m not sure started a topic on the Boagworld forum about mentorship and got a whole load of positive responses. I don’t think it ever went anywhere, but I’d like to see it happen.

What I’d like to see happen:

  • A community mentorship site start
    • Pros register as mentors of certain fields
    • Students register interest in certain fields
    • Pros and Students get matched
    • Potential problem: Child safety. Would need CRB check on pros?
  • Severely discounted conference tickets for students
  • A college/agency hybrid start


At time of publication I’m 17 years old. I left official school last year to do a three month intensive course at the Totnes School of Guitarmaking and am now trying to make a living as a freelance instrument maker and web designer.