You are not a Web Designer IF…

Since the term Designer is pretty generic these days, I will try to limit the topic of this article to web designers. So these next lines should define better the qualities and knowledge a web designer should have. This is just my opinion, if you think differently please share your thoughts.

You are not a Web Designer IF:


1. you don’t know what a PIXEL is
2. you don’t know what a mockup is
3. you don’t know what RGB or CMYK is and stands for
4. you don’t know what screen real estate is
5. you only design and never code
6. you don’t know the difference between vector and raster
7. you have only heard about Photoshop
8. you can’t name an alternative to Photoshop
9. you know some cool Photoshop filters
10. you know only a way of selection in Photoshop
11. you don’t know what DPI stands for
12. you don’t know what image formats are
13. you know only JPG and GIF
14. you know some cool effects in Front Page
15. you don’t know what a DTD is
16. you use only HTML Transitional DTD
17. you don’t know the difference between HTML and XHTML
18. you don’t know what CSS is
19. you are inclined of using inline CSS
20. you don’t know anything about typography
21. you don’t know what a serif is
22. you’ve never heard about W3C
23. you know to code only in Dreamweaver
24. you test your web pages only in Internet Explorer
25. you don’t read web design blogs
26. you don’t use wireframes
27. you have a Mac. ( you are not necessarily a designer if you own a mac )
28. you have no knowledge of design history ( although this is something that can be learned between projects :D )

Are you?

My reason for this post was to better define the thin line between a web designer wannabe (newbie) and a mature web designer. Please share your ideas, things that I forgot to put on this list.


Thank you, Mihaela Dumitrascu – for this wonderful picture.

82 ideas on “You are not a Web Designer IF…

  1. Eli

    Interesting list, and I’m glad to say I’m doing pretty well according to it.

    One thing though, what is your reasoning behind point #27? Do you just want to stir some people up and get some colorful comments or is there really some reasoning behind it?

    I have personally used Windows for 5+ years and have only recently tried a Mac (It’s not for me, but still). You can do as much on a Mac as on a Windows machine, except for maybe playing games.

    I haven’t used a mac for too long though, so many there’s something fundamental I’m missing :)

    • Dorian

      Saying that you don’t need a mac to be a designer is fine. But your statement is “You are not a Web Designer IF… you have a Mac.”
      Whichever platform you, doesn’t make you more or less of designer. It really doesn’t matter what platform you are. It sounds like more Mac bashing.

  2. la woman

    Perhaps you could have worded comment #27 better. There are very many top notch graphic designers that DO use a Mac. I would eliminate that entry since platform does not have anything to do with talent.

    • Andy Gongea

      You have the explanation between parentheses.

  3. Tom Sinclair

    Phew, I think I pass the test, just ;)

    Nice list to make sure people don’t start off making mistakes!

    • mary

      Heh! Funny list, thanks for sharing this. I especially like #7 and #8.

  4. Desizn Tech

    Thanks for this funny yet true post. I guess I got a long way to go then? lolz

  5. Ashley Bailey

    This is hysterical! I love #24 and see that all the time! :)

  6. Heidi

    Soooo true its scary – even scarier is that my 10yr old son is well on his way to passing the “test” yet so many people calling themselves designers would have no hope!

    • Andy Gongea

      What can I say – congratulations for teaching your kid the fundamentals.

      Randy Pausch said: “You’ve got to get the fundamentals down because otherwise the fancy stuff isn’t going to work.”

  7. Ian Mayman

    I’ve never thought I’m a professional designer, but I can install and customise WordPress blog code and I say yes to almost all those in the list.

    I would suggest adding “you don’t know how to position a page element using CSS” to the list, I’m close to saying yes to that one, and perhaps something about PHP?

    • Andy Gongea

      CSS positioning and PHP are somehow too specific.

  8. Randy Gonzalez

    Great List! I had to look twice at the comment of Macs!

  9. Jeremy Swinarton

    I’m in design school, so it would be terrible if I knew none of these.

    “You’ve never heard of kerning” might be a good one. ;p

  10. Elio Assuncao

    Great Post, textbook stuff.

  11. Jeremy

    You should have added “Have no knowledge of design history”

    • Andy Gongea

      Great idea Jeremy, thanks for the tip. I will add it.

  12. Miguel

    I seriously disagree with some of these statements.

    Paul Rand couldn’t code, Margo Chase doesn’t. Steven Heller might, but even if they don’t who is to say they are NOT designers? Who sets the standard?

    Paul Rand was responsible for the NBC logo among others. I think the list is missing a serious frame of reference needed to set said standard.

    You need to rethink the title of this list to “You are not a Web Designer IF…”

    If you don’t know who Margo Chase, Paul Rand or Steven Heller are, then you probably shouldn’t be writing this list.

    • Andy Gongea

      As you can see this is targeted towards web designers generally.

      Since CSS and DTD elements were involved, I thought it was obvious that the article was a little more general but on the web side.

      The reason to say Designer was because many of us have knowledge in Interaction Design, Industrial Design, UX, UI … etc. And you can’t wrap all these titles under a different term.

      Regarding your last phrase, I wasn’t aware of Seven Heller’s work, but hey – I’m here to learn.


      • baboba

        It’s still webdesign if you are mainly talking about things such as Dreamweaver, CSS, HTML and sorts.
        These things wouldn’t be on the list if you would write a general design list.

    • Brock Ray

      Amen, Miguel, on your final sentence. I don’t care what type of design you’re doing, if you don’t know these pillars of the industry, you need to do some serious homework.

  13. Nouman Saleem

    23. you know to code only in Dreamweaver

    ya…the reason behind this? fyi Dreamweaver has a very powerful ‘code’ view, not just drop and drag design mode.

    research would be awesome

    • Andy Gongea

      The reason behind #23.
      If you can’t adapt, and you depend on some features in a particular program – that is a serious drawback for a “designer”.
      A designer should rely mostly on his skills and not the software.

      PS: I’m a former Dreamweaver user, but these days I use Notepad++. ;)

      • Nouman Saleem

        I too have notepad++, but the time savings of Dreamweaver outweigh any good of switching.

        When I enter my id’s/classes in my html file, it will tell me if I have yet to state that class/id in my css. and of course that’s just the tip of the ice–but I understand what you mean by that.

      • Yofie Setiawan

        Good progress…

      • Yofie Setiawan

        But still… you first learn from softwares :D

        So it’s just a matter of time… When people have the passion to learn and work well, so from creating becoming a person who trusted by people/clients to work on projects…

      • PingVPS

        Coda ftw on my… Mac! ;)

  14. Angel Grablev

    “19. you use inline CSS” there is nothing wrong with using inline for certain elements, plus sometimes it saves time to first use inlines and then move them to your external css stylesheet.

    so i propose

    19. you are inclined of using inline CSS

    • Andy Gongea

      Ole! :D
      Indeed your approach is better. Thanks.

  15. Aw

    29. You don’t know what is ActionScript

  16. Mauro Iman

    Excelent list! I would say that it is quiet funny when you read it…

    I think that you could add:
    You are not a web designer IF your monitor is full of stains and fingerprints (just kidding :) )


    • Andy Gongea

      Oh… In this case I’m out.


  17. tampaba1

    A true designer knows how to build a website, and/or template, from the ground up using all their acquired knowledge in the various disciplines. Many of today’s designers only know how to use a basic framework, adding and deleting elements as necessary and this in no way makes them “designers”.

    I hope some of the so-called “professional designers” read your list. Maybe then they’ll realize what being a designer is really all about.

    Thank you for a wonderful list.

    • Daniel

      I agree with you.

      I used Notepad about five years back when I used a PC extensively. I only know HTML and CSS from about HTML 4. Even though, I still use W3C to verify it and to verify it in each browser, if I don’t already have it on my own computer, which is now a Mac. I’ve recently been learning Dreamweaver from CS2 and now CS4, it does help with the auto-updates of pages, using a template. I use the program but still code more than drag-n-drop.

      I’d sure like to learn PHP, the closest I’ve gotten to it is PHP Modules in WordPress when I converted my HTML/CSS template to a WordPress template, using a bare bones WordPress frame.

      My other focus has been on Microsoft, Apple and Ubuntu Linux’s hardware/software.

  18. HotPress Web

    “you know some cool effects in Front Page” – that’s a good one. LOL

  19. Evan

    My question is why do people group developer skills under the designer title.

    I pass your list but I am not a designer by any means. Your list is like 40% Designer and 60% Developer.

    I understand your point that designers are more valuable/experience by having a bit of a development background.

  20. Ken Edwards

    Not a web designer if you have a Mac? You are either dumb or just want a flame war. Platform doesn’t matter one bit. Was a good post up until # 27.

  21. Tim Smith

    Great Post!! Funny yet true!! I tweeted it!

  22. Andrei Gusan

    Nice list. You can also add some photography experience. I think it’s relevant :)

  23. adhi

    fantastic, designer is multitalent worker

  24. Harry

    Damn! I didn’t pass 10 of those list. :(

    The guys at Design Meltdown must be made a mistake referring to my design to explain about Asymmetrical Balance:

  25. Mike Palmer

    You forgot to add “you don’t have the ego to write a list like this.”

  26. SeanJA

    you know some cool effects in Front Page

    Do people still use front page?

    • Thomas B

      I prefer to work on a Mac, its better (for me) for screen resolutions, stability, windows emulation, etc ..

    • Matt

      If they do then they clearly do not care about how there code is not only structured but also written.

      Front Page is a horrible piece of software to utilize, DW is a much much better route to talk, although I press for anyone looking to learn to code to write code by hand.

      As far as php I highly recommend using phpdesigner2007 it checks syntax nicely and it also is great for hand coding xhtml and css…. its what I use in place of DW, although I do find myself using it from time to time

  27. Tahir Akram

    WoW! Thank God, I have saved my a** to be a designer ;)

  28. Andy Gongea

    I’m glad that most of you guys liked the article. It wasn’t created to offend anyone.

    I wanted to be funny but also with some truth in it.


  29. Jim

    This list is a great guidleline for new designers. As such, perhaps you/we could add links to some of these items to give guidelines or rational or definitions for the items/skills in question.

  30. Yogi

    Define “designer” please.

  31. Sincejan

    Quite humorous since I got into coding a few years after my discovery of CSS. One need not know who designed what, that’s idol worshiping. Designers are visual people, coding is an occupational hazard that some software companies has been smart enough hide. Also remember Photostyler? Yeas I still miss that program, that’s what photoshop should be like.

  32. Antonio

    I agree with all .
    #8. you can’t name an alternative to Photoshop

    here I have a little problem, I have used GImp and Illustrator( I know the difference beetween raster and vector :) ) but for me photoshop is realy important when I’m working on a new layout.
    Maybe is like you say, and we need to know alternative to photoshop, but i haven’t found alternative to this software, but yes maybe is my error and it will limit me on a work.
    #27 well I have worked with windows and Mac, without problem, but I love Mac!! (but I think like you on this point).
    win = notepad++ and topstyle
    mac = textmate and css edit.
    Anyway great post.

  33. Mariusz

    Why should a graphic designer know HTML or coding? You should change this to web designer, probably, because you’re not a designer if you don’t know that there are other fields than the web that you can design – industrial design, graphic/print design etc.


    29: you don’t know what WordPress is

  35. alex

    Great post, Andy.
    I would add, 2 more:
    29. All your PSD files have only one layer.
    30. All your logo designs have bevel/drop shadow, regardless of web or print use.

    • Ezra

      The comment about one layered PSDs cracked me up.

      I love this list and I feel fortunate that my school taught us to code in Notepad way before we used DW. I think a lot of people blur the lines between developers and designers with ignorance and that is why a few people got offended by this list. I consider myself a designer for more than one reason; I have more experience in the field of design (graphic, web, fashion, etc.) and I believe that one can truly call themselves a designer/developer when the nature of their tasks is instinctive.

      • ianonline

        Fantastic checklist to help wannabe designers know whether they have the skills to earn a living building websites.

        This comment was originally posted on Digg

  36. MaxmusB

    I would add: “You don’t know what the colour wheel” is! “You don’t know what FTP is!”

    I know a lot of people who think they are designers because they can convert a MS word doc to HTML and then can upload via http://FTP... sad, sad, sad!

    Poor designers sometimes hide behind their Mac to give the impression that they are a hip designer!

    Maybe these are true because I live in Africa… who knows!

    Thanks for the post

  37. Myfacefriends

    nice post!

  38. Max

    Indeed an interesting list in my opinion. While me and probably most web designers would do very well according to it, it could be a nice small hint for beginners seeking for advice how to start and what to learn and get used to essentially before they are really on a good way to become a web designer.

  39. Maikel D

    woohoooo… i’m safe :D

  40. E11World

    Nice list.. I like the Mac one. So true.

  41. sosergio

    xx. if you don’t know what AJAX stand for.

  42. Dhaval Jani

    Title should read “You are not a Web Designer just because…”

  43. Arun J

    Great, great post! Totally agree with this. Really helps separate the wheat from the chaff. We need more of these.

  44. pixeldope

    the list if good and i know its a must must

  45. Steven

    Woop, I passed the test with flying colours. Go me!

  46. Scot

    You should add somethig about not knowing what Flash is.

  47. Abstractic

    What’s wrong to code in Dreamweaver, it’s actually a really good text editor if you turn of the preview window with built in support for HTML tagging, CSS attributes and etc..

  48. Oliver Treend

    I’m only 16 but I’m officially a ‘mature web designer’ :-P

    Great post… a lot of those points made me laugh! :-P


  49. Master

    You are not a designer if you cannot draw with pencil !
    Yeah !

  50. Cameron

    I agree with many of these, but disagree with some. I consider myself an intermediate web designer, but I didn’t know a couple of these things. I believe you have to understand what you NEED to understand and be WILLING to learn and expand and become better.

    Just my two cents :)

  51. shitic

    I have heard about serif but I don’t know this exactly. So I’m not x)

  52. Michael

    Awesome – I passed all! Like Oliver Treed up there, I am young but “mature” :P

    Thanks for the quick post – I love the comments suggesting about AJAX, ActionScript, one layer PSD’s, and FTP’s…great ideas.

  53. WallpaperDude

    Lotta people crying a river because you called them out with this list. *lol* Kinda glorious. TOO many people think of themselves as designers and developers nowadays. Everyone and their mom thinks they can make websites, charge for it, and they call themselves “freelance.” The titles are abused, and I’d say more than half of the so called web site creators out there today are just hacks.

  54. WallMountedHDD

    Like some individuals here I appreciate your intent, but I highly disagree with many of the items on this list. Your opinion regarding what constitutes a designer and a wannabe are highly subjective, and you don’t seem to understand the “fine line” between a designer and a programmer. Seems like you have a little bit to learn yourself.

  55. Tonina

    I’m an attorney with no formal education about design or arts and passed all the questions above, scoring . I used to say I’m intermediate web designer, can I call myself mature designer?

  56. Miniia

    Well,I got a long way to go… :)

  57. christian louboutin

    Just one question: how to add your blog into my rrs reader, thanks so much.

  58. Mandi

    This list mostly covers the technical programming side of being a designer. According to the list many programmers I know would pass with flying colors. However their designs, if you can call them that, make one want to crawl in a hole a die of pixel poisoning.