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DNQ Ep. 3: How to Become a Web Designer with Michael Young

For the third episode of the DNQ Interview Series, I’d like to welcome Michael Young, a professional web designer with over 10 years of experience under his belt! We met in Bucharest through a digital nomad Facebook group (I highly recommend joining a few of these while abroad).
Michael young

A few of us rowing boats!

We visited a cafe to get some work done, and I was extremely impressed with his portfolio. I’ve wanted to learn more about web design, animation, and illustration but the seemingly high barrier of entry has always kept me from looking into it. I asked Michael more about his story and how he got into his field, and here was the result!

How to Become a Web Designer with Michael Young

Sharon: Tell us about yourself/your story! What is your background in web design?

Michael: My name’s Michael Young, I grew up in sunny Perth, Western Australia. My interest in web design came about from a digital media class I took in high school. It felt like a natural fit straight away. From there I went to university and completed a Bachelor of Communications majoring in Multimedia. After a little while hunting around, I managed to snag a job with an advertising company and now it’s been 10 years in the field.

Sharon: I notice on your portfolio that you also do illustrations and animations? I really like them!

Michael: Yes, I’ve been broadening my skill set in these areas. Animation and illustration is quite useful in mobile apps and website design. There’s been a shift in recent years towards using visual imagery to communicate where there would normally have been text. It’s more direct and simple. Onboarding screens for a mobile app would be a good example. I also feel like animated gifs are only going to continue their upward trend as more brands look to find better ways to connect with their users, through the creation of their own branded gifs. This is pretty exciting. 

Sharon: Why do you enjoy the field? What inspired you to join, and did you always know it was for you?
Michael: Ever since that first digital media class, I knew it was what I wanted do. I guess I’m lucky in that way. I always enjoyed art at school and I think working in web allowed me to explore that in a practical way. Because it has changed so much since I started, it means there are lots of cool things you can do on the web these days. I think if I was still designing websites for Internet Explorer 6, I’d be long gone.
michael young web designer
Sharon: Do you think anyone can learn it? Or do you think you need a university degree in web design to get started?
Michael: You definitely don’t need a university degree. I have no regrets about going to university, because I met some amazing people and it was an incredible experience. If I was starting out now though, I would use online resources and learn that way. I feel like it certainly helps to some degree of creativity if you want to get into web design. One of the best ways is to look at excellent websites and understand why they’re so good. This will help you develop good taste as well as understand the principles behind good design.
Sharon: How long did it take you to learn?
Michael: I think if you’re a web designer, you’re always learning. The industry is constantly changing, new languages, programs devices etc. Theoretically you could be up and running in under a year, but to be a good web designer takes quite a few years in my opinion.
Sharon: What characteristics would you say you would need to be a good candidate for the field?
Michael: Attention to detail and creativity are two that come to mind. To do well I think it’s also important to have patience, some degree of empathy and be good at problem solving. A lot of what designers do is problem solve. So the ability to take feedback from bosses, clients and users and come up with a solution. That’s what you get paid for at the end of the day.
Sharon: Is web design in-demand and will stay that way for a while?
Michael: People have predicted the end of web design jobs for years now, so I would say yes. Web design can fit under a lot of different categories these days too. A lot of web designers have moved into UI/UX, visual design and product design careers. While we continue to view content on our desktops, devices and now VR headsets, we’ll need people to design how that content looks.

Sharon: How did you grow your portfolio?
Michael: Working full-time in recent years means I haven’t been able to take on too much client work. So for me it’s been a lot about improving my skill set and expanding into areas like illustration, animation and UI/UX. I made a conscious effort to grow my folio by working on side projects and creating mock briefs that I could then share and explain my processes. This allows me to put into practice what I’ve learnt. So my portfolio probably has a mixture of client work and personal projects at the moment.
mike young selfie
mike young tennis
A few of Michael’s animations
Sharon: I’m pretty interested in trying out web design but have no clue where to start. What resources would you recommend for beginners to start out with?
Michael: There’s probably never been a better time to learn web design, as far resources go. If I was learning again I’d probably look at companies like Treehouse or General Assembly for something intensive. Otherwise there’s also Udemy and Skillshare where you can pick and choose courses and learn at your own pace.
Sharon: What project are you most proud of and why?
Michael: Probably the most recent one (I think most designers would say that). It was a website rebrand for a university and it was a huge job. Working as part of a team, what we proposed and eventually implemented was a huge move away from the original site, stylistically and structurally. There were also a lot people involved in the process that also had to sign off on the final product. So it was incredibly satisfying to produce something that everyone was happy with and get positive feedback from staff and students.
michael young web designer
michael young web designer
Screenshots of Michael’s latest project
Sharon: What are your future career and life goals?
Michael: I’d like to eventually have my own business where I get to create amazing content for people. I’m also really excited how animation is finding it’s way into web in many forms these days. It’s something I’m really interested in and I’ve love to be more involved in that. I have this idea where I want to create an animated kids storybook. Also not having to sit in an office and have the freedom to work anywhere would be nice too!
michael young web designer
Sharon: Why did you move to Romania out of all places? What factors were you considering?
Michael: Eastern Europe was somewhere I always wanted to go and experience. I liked the unknown factor with Romania. It also has some amazing countryside and it’s easy on the wallet.
Sharon: Any last words?
Michael: Don’t be afraid to get out there and share your work. Whether you’re beginner or experienced, as designers we have a tendency to be insular in our habits. To become a better designer it’s important to talk, get feedback and exchange ideas with other designers and the community. That’s some advice I got recently and I couldn’t agree more.
 Michael Young Pin

Thank you, Michael, for speaking with me! From our interview, it looks like web design will stay in-demand for a while and would be a perfect active income channel to pursue for creative people.

There are a lot of online resources currently available allowing beginners to get into the field without a university degree. If you are a newcomer who wants to get started, check out the following sites Mike listed:

Please check out Michael’s work here:

In a future DNQ interview episode, I will also discuss with Michael some fundamentals of illustration and animation! Stay tuned.

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