Web design, the fastest growing segment among the various disciplines of graphic design, calls upon the creative and magical skills of a graphic designer, but it takes designers away from the physical media with which they are most familiar. Instead, web design challenges the creation of pleasing and evocative designs entirely within an electronic, digital medium.
In a series of disciplines that, at one time, meant literally getting their fingers dirty - an analogous concept that went well beyond allegory - web designers are actually at a disadvantage if their fingers are dirty at all.
What is web design, and how does it differ from the traditions of this time-honored profession?
Because of the digital revolution that has allowed manipulation of computer code to handle far more than the text-based skills of the first generation of computer science, the computer and its peripherals and software packages now considers text as just another graphic element in a cyber-world of illustration, photography, audio/video, as well as text, and a variety of combinations of these elements.
Like never before, graphic and web designers have access to a color palate that is millions of colors, textures that range from smooth glass to rocky crystals to ethereal fog, shapes that were once impossible to conceive, let alone replicate with ease, animation in three dimensions - and potentially more - and combinations of these abilities.
Web design is the discipline that takes these elements, puts them into the hands and minds of capable designers, and turns them loose on the facsimile of a medium that we still refer to, anachronistically, as a "page." In that respect, the details of the tools used in the software packages website designers employ are still represented by their dirty-fingers icons of the real, old-school tools: pencils and brushes, paint spray cans, smudges and smears, scissors and blades, cropping, fading, dodging, outlining, filling, and so on. Designers are, after all, still using these same techniques; it is just managed by a medium with which they interface only indirectly, but very effectively.
It is actually an advantage to the website designer because the speed of activity from inception to final result is often more quickly accomplished than ever before.
However, to all of the design skills that coordinate so well with the old-school technology of graphic design, the website designer must acquire new skills in computer code manipulation such that some of the graphic images, or icons, or text strings, created on the web page have direct electronic link to other pages to which the designer allows the webpage user to access to further enhance the user's ability to acquire information.
In this respect, the web designer enhances the skills of the graphic designer by use of tools that exist more in the realm of computer programmers than in visual effects design, but it all works in a cohesive whole to give the Internet user a more pleasing, realistic environment in which to search for our ever-increasing thirst for information.