Design and Creativity

I’m currently taking an intermediate HTML/CSS class with Girl Develop It. The class is being held at Adobe in Seattle. Wow! That office space is beautifully designed (I mean, of course, but still) and taught by the awesome Marcy Sutton who is basically everything I want to be later in my career in programming. I just talked about this for my Ada application video, but five years into my career I would love to find my place in my coding community, give talks, be an educator and mentor, and have a larger effect on the community when it comes to accessibility and inclusivity for others. Marcy is doing all that and is awesome.

I enjoyed the last HTML/CSS class I took with GDI and my websites are starting to move out of the 90s and into the modern era with a little CSS3 help: Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 7.55.54 PM

And a 3-column design looks so pretty (ignore me and the donut)!!!:

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 8.49.54 AM

However, the class has me thinking a lot about “design” and what that means and if I would be good at doing it or even like it. I am not one of those people who think anyone and everyone can design or that art is not a deeply rooted praxis. This comes from being raised by an architect and having several industrial and graphic designers in my family. I have heard a lifetime worth of arguments over hexcodes, shades, good design practice, and the difference between all sorts of triangle shapes — 30 degrees is NOT 31 degrees and that you would insinuate that is an insult. I find design compelling, I do like art, but I’m not sure it’s really my strong suit. I have always liked spatial problems. Or maybe it’s just math — any problem with multiple variables and a restraint. I often imagine time constraints and word counts in terms of finite space.

I just don’t know if tweaking CSS and HTML to hack design on a website is exactly what gets me excited. Tweaking databases and data structures so that we get different and more accurate interpretations of results however… I could do that all day. I don’t mind cleaning data, because I love breaking down something large and complex. I think it’s so important to appreciate design and know how it works though and I understand in the abstract sense that the “front end” is not only design. I am excited to learn more about the whole array of computer programming topics.

I wrote a philosophy paper once in undergrad about Martin Heidegger’s Building Dwelling Thinking, which argued for carefully inclusive design of public spaces. Heidegger begins his book stating

We attain to dwelling, so it seems, only by means of building. The latter, building, has the former, dwelling, as its goal. Still, not every building is a dwelling. Bridges and hangars, stadiums and power stations are buildings but not dwellings; railway stations and highways, dams and market halls are built, but they are not dwelling places.

In my head right now, you could so easily replace “building” with “web app” and “dwelling” with “webpage” where it exists through the browser. We attain to an accessible webpage only by building but definitely not everything we build is accessible.

Design is so important. Just learning a few basics, like what a “hero” (large header at the top of a website) is and how to alter it to look good, what SVG’s are and why they are better than png’s, and all sorts of best practices that will make your content accessible to everyone. At one point Marcy told us, “You don’t need to know how to create tools from scratch, but just being able to alter a SVG file is helpful.” I believed it. Having a birds eye view of design will definitely make me a better programmer no matter what part of the process I find fits me best.

I’m so thankful for organizations like Girl Develop It that go out of their way to offer classes at discounted rates for people who can’t afford General Assembly or Code Fellows. They are helping women like me to be more informed about the field as a whole and introducing us to really cool spaces like Simply Measured and Adobe in Seattle. I would definitely recommend looking into it if you are interested. They are very welcoming and have scholarships to their classes.

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