Meet Our Expert: Shawn Sprockett, Visual Design Instructor, GA San Francisco
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Susan K Rits, a User Experience Design Immersive instructor at GA San Francisco, says, “Color has a predictable and quantifiable physiological effect that influences our perception and behavior. It’s about emotions, and whether you realize it or not, the colors used in a design strongly affect the emotions of your users.
“During the full-time User Experience Design Immersive course at General Assembly, we spend time working through both the science of color theory, as well as how to use color in product design to achieve business goals. In GA’s part-time Visual Design course, students learn the fundamentals of color theory and color schemes, and learn how to apply them to designs for the web, like websites and interfaces.”
Shawn Sprockett, a Visual Design instructor at GA San Francisco, says, “Composition is how we see information. It influences the relationships we see between objects, perceptions of complexity, and affects our desire to engage with content. Learning composition as a visual designer will allow you to make information appear in ways that convey different meanings, or leave different impressions, like sophistication, affluence, cleverness, or strangeness. Combined with typography and color theory, a mastery of compositions can help a visual designer compete in a range of design job markets from editorial layouts to app design.
“At General Assembly, we teach composition primarily in our part-time Visual Design course. However, some of its concepts overlap with our user experience design courses, since composition can also implicate how something works to a user. Students can expect to learn by doing at GA: They’ll analyze their favorite web pages and apps to detect how subtle choices in composition influence their understanding of functionality and impact an interface’s feeling.”
A methodology for gaining insight into user behaviors and needs, design research helps shape the aesthetics and functionality of products, services, and experiences. Tactics — which can be qualitative or quantitative — include user interviews, data mining, surveys, behavioral studies, and more.
Providing a framework for visual design, grids are the foundation for building an organized, well-conceived layout. By establishing hierarchy, rhythm, and balance among a visual components, they guide a user’s eye throughout a design. As a web designer, you can own grids or choose from prebuilt frameworks such as Simple Grid or Skeleton.
A mood board is a collage of materials that conveys a specific style, concept, or emotion. Visual designers create mood boards to help them brainstorm ideas, pitch to project stakeholders, and collaborate effectively.
Adobe’s pixel-based photo editor and image creator Photoshop is a versatile tool that’s become a industry design standard. In addition to photo editing, users can leverage this software to design websites, user interfaces, video graphics, print brochures, and more.
Phil Bolles, User Experience Design instructor at GA Washington, D.C., says, “Responsive web design — the design of layouts and hierarchies that preserve visual emphasis and change as a screen changes size — has reshaped the modern web. We now think of the web as a spectrum, a range of screen widths corresponding to a wide range of devices. A website shouldn’t care whether the user is viewing it on a phone, laptop, or flat-screen TV via a Playstation 4. Instead, a website should respond to its viewer’s screen width, preserve content structure even as the layout changes, and maintain readability at any size — all of which leads to a positive user experience.
“In GA’s full-time User Experience Design Immersive and part-time User Experience Design course, instructors frequently challenge students to think about how their digital products will look at different screen sizes and give them tips on maintaining visual priority. Recognizing that they can’t guarantee which device their audience uses, students learn to think of the web as fluid. When it comes to bringing responsive designs to life, you can learn the fundamentals in our part-time Front-End Web Development course or online HTML, CSS & Web Design course, or launch a career building seamless, responsive websites in GA’s full-time Web Development Immersive or Web Development Immersive Remote program.”
Read “A Beginner’s Guide to Responsive Design” by Phil Bolles.
User Experience Fundamentals
Katharine Hargreaves, a User Experience Design Immersive instructor at GA Los Angeles, says, “User experience (UX) is rapidly growing and revolutionizing how people interact with the world around them. UX is why Google is so easy to use and how Facebook knows what article to suggest to you next. It’s why the internet evolved from Geocities homepages with blinking “Under Construction” signs to the sophisticated interfaces we use every day. User experience is practiced by UX designers — but also product managers, product designers, entrepreneurs, startups, and forward-thinking organizations.
“There are many ways to learn UX fundamentals at General Assembly. For the most in-depth experience, our full-time User Experience Design Immersive, for career-changers, introduces students to every step of the process while providing opportunities to apply skills directly through project-based learning with real clients. Our part-time User Experience Design program, available on campus or online, is a great way to gain exposure to UX tools, techniques, and industry trends, and the eight-week Visual Design course covers a high-level overview of the practice and how it relates to visual design. You’ll also learn how UX impacts the product life cycle in the part-time Product Management course. If you’re just looking to learn more about UX and opportunities in the field, there are many workshops and events that can introduce you to the core concepts and best practices.”
Paolo Sta. Barbara, Visual Design instructor at General Assembly Sydney, says, “An interface is a means by which a user interacts with a computer, service, or product. For a business, having a well-designed interface for your app, website, or even your internal dashboards or CMS means easier actions and easier ways for users to find information. This ultimately ensures that your users take advantage of your product in a seamless way.
“At General Assembly, students learn to apply interface design in a variety of disciplines. As aspiring professionals in our Web Development Immersive, taught on campus and remotely, they design and develop interfaces for websites and applications. Coding students also explore interface design in our part-time Front-End Web Development course, as well as our self-paced, online HTML, CSS, & Web Design program. Students take on interface design from a user experience perspective in our full- and part-time UX courses, while students in our part-time Visual Design course dive into interface-related typography, color theory, and more.”
Read “A Beginner’s Guide to Designing Interfaces” by Paolo Sta. Barbara.
Similar to the concept of composition, which applies to design across all media, web layout refers specifically to the arrangement of visual components on a web page. These elements include images, text, navigation tools, and more.
Typefaces, Fonts, & Web Typography
Shawn Sprockett, a Visual Design instructor at GA San Francisco, says, “Typography is one of the most essential topics in visual design. It not only sets the mood and tone of your work — whether it’s a logo, app, or book — but it is the chief vehicle for communicating information. Historically, calligraphy and engraving were the dominant expressions of typography until the printing press introduced movable type and a world of different typefaces with unique expressive qualities and uses. To this day, typography is used to influence perceptions, persuade people to change their behavior, and communicate the importance of messages and ideas.
“In General Assembly’s part-time Visual Design course, students spend up to two weeks on typography. They learn everything from how to create effective layouts, to individual parts of letterforms, through exercises that can include creating font mood boards, practicing fundamentals with online games, and building layouts from scratch with vintage letter scans. Mastering typography will help you communicate ideas and craft an effective look and feel for your products and your clients.”