Dan Crask, creative director at Brand Shepherd, has been working in graphic design long enough to remember cutting out graphics with scissors and pasting them up. But these days he’s just as comfortable working on interactive design as print projects—even after well over a decade working exclusively in print. Here’s how he made the leap.
When did you decide to make the switch from print to web?
In 2005 I had my first request for a website, and I thought, “Sure, why not?” and gave it a try. I knew web design would be a needed design discipline to learn at some point, but until then print [business] was very healthy.
What resources were most helpful as you added interactive skills?
Working with developers who could talk with me respectfully and “down” to me at the same time have been priceless. In return, I’ve hired these developers over and over for web projects.
How long did it take before you felt comfortable working in web design?
It was a solid year before I felt comfortable saying web design is part of my design expertise. The thing I like about web design is that the technology that makes up its context is constantly evolving, so the learning curve evolves, too.
What’s your job like now? What kind of interactive projects do you work on?
My workload is split fairly even: half web and mobile, half print (primarily consumer packaging). What is fascinating to me, though, is that all of my non-packaging print work is for web-based tech firms who need sell sheets, brochures, trade show booth graphics, direct mail campaigns, etc. They don’t have in-house designers who know how to design for print.
What’s the hardest thing for a long-time print designer to grasp about interactive design?
That web design is truly where form follows function in a far more strict sense than print. We look at the most used, most successful websites—such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, Twitter, eBay—and they all use a UI design aesthetic that isn’t very creative. In some cases, like Amazon, it’s downright ugly. But it’s useful, and that’s what rules right now.
With print there is a balancing act of using engaging visuals to deliver content. With web design, the designer has a duty to pull back and let content have a bigger role to play. For some long-time print designers I think that is a tough pill to swallow.
Any advice for other print designers who want to make the switch?
Be honest with yourself, your clients and your developers. If you don’t know what something does or means, say so. I’ve yet to encounter a situation where I lost a gig or was belittled for not knowing about something to do with web design. I have had to ask a developer or two to talk to me as if I’m 10 years old, but we always figure it out.