Change of profession: from graphic designer to front-end developer

Hello, Habr! I present to you the translation of the article " How I transitioned from a graphic designer to front-end developer in 5 months " by Vince MingPu Shao.

2017 has been a difficult but exciting year for me. I quit my job as a graphic designer in March, and started diving into the world of web development. Looking ahead, five months later, I got the job of a front-end developer at Tenten.

After working six months full time, I wanted to share my story about why and how I decided to change jobs drastically. This story is for those who are new, but extremely ambitious like me.

To be honest, this post was not written by a cool front-end developer or professional designer who can give you a clear map of actions. Also, I would not say that this is a list of what you need to learn at the beginning, but in this post there are several lessons about which I will discuss below.

Remember that there is no universal way for everyone, everything is individual.

What i was like

мое старое портфолио
This is my behance profile.
I was a 24 year old graphic designer with no programming experience. In school time, my scores in math, physics, chemistry and other technical subjects were extremely low. These items scared me with boring and complex formulas, numbers and mistakes. The things that interested me then were created by paint, music or words. Naturally, in college, I chose English as a foreign language and subjects such as literature, culture, photography and design.

How I learned to design on my own in college and finally became a graphic designer after graduation is a different story. The fact is that throughout my life until last year I dreamed of becoming a writer, photographer, film critic, singer and designer, but I never thought about being a developer under any circumstances.

Why front-end

But, after many attempts to realize my ambitions, I was deeply disappointed with the influence that graphic design can have on Taiwan or maybe the whole world.

There is no doubt that I still know about the power and importance of great design. But most of the time, designers are only allowed to deal with a “customer problem,” instead of solving “real customer problems.” Designers spend most of their time guessing the desires of their clients without in-depth data and analysis, guided only by intuition, experience or common sense.

Two years later, I realized that I was tired of this. It was then that I decided to take a look at one of the most emerging topics on Medium: front-end development.

I found that a designer with design skills will allow you to gain more control and authority over each task and client. In addition, work on web projects allows you to effectively disseminate information.

I left my graphic work at the end of February. Having no plan and savings in the bank, I began my journey of becoming a front-end developer.

What did I do

The first step is always difficult. But if you find out what is the reason prompting you, everything becomes simpler. For example, if your goal is to become a highly paid specialist as soon as possible, then you should learn the necessary knowledge for this.

In my case, I wanted to be both a web designer and a front-end developer, so I decided to focus on knowledge in both areas.

So, I set a goal and compiled a list of required tasks with my understanding of front-end development.

1. Goal
Get a front-end developer job
2. How to achieve the goal

  • Learn HTML, CSS, jQuery / JavaScript
  • Create Portfolio Website
  • Prepare some projects

In the beginning I limited myself to just that, but the more I read, the bigger my list became. After some time, I supplemented it with the following:

  1. Sass
  2. Gulp
  3. CS50 are great courses
  4. Unix Basics
  5. Basic Wordpress Knowledge
  6. Jekyll
  7. Amazon Web Services Basic
  8. Basic knowledge of computer networks

Note: of course this is not a complete list. For five months I once posted Node.js, React.js, PHP and others in it. The above tasks were the ones that I actually completed at the end.

To follow the plan, I set myself a 48-hour work week. This meant that I had to work eight hours a day with one day off a week. Toggl helped me keep track of my work.

Where i studied

I tried a lot of platforms, textbooks and other learning resources. Here I will give only the most memorable to me.

Programming schools
Going back, I hated textbooks that showed me lines of code that I didn't know what to do with them. Some believed that I either knew all this, or they told me to ignore it for now.

Some lectures hurt me and made me feel very stupid.
In reality, there is no ideal platform for learning everything. I tried to be as flexible as I could, jumping between each of them.

  1. Codecademy - Many people recommended it, but then I was very disappointed with his theory. It seemed to me difficult to understand, but I definitely recommend practical tasks.
  2. Code School - I spent a lot of time here. Here are very clear lessons.
  3. Treehouse - Most Youtube Ads! Treehouse has an excellent marketing strategy, which I fell for. They have a lot of courses that you will not find much. For example, it's hard to find a decent Wordpress primer for beginners, but Treehouse has one.
  4. freeCodeCamp - This community has a clear path for beginners, and it knows which next technology or library you need to learn. I was immediately interested in what to do next after learning basic HTML, CSS and JavaScript, but freeCodeCamp puts small projects in the right places in the learning process.

My bookmarks of learning platforms:
Youtube channels.
This is the best place to learn for free or for fun. Youtube videos are not only great for learning certain topics, but also convenient for acquiring a variety of atypical knowledge.

  1. The Coding Train is the channel of Professor Daniel Schiffman, who is the most energetic teacher I have ever seen.
  2. Thenewboston is a channel where you will find something that is nowhere to be found.
  3. Academind - also provides all kinds of tutorials.
  4. Fun Fun Function - lead Mattias Petter Johansson - a developer who previously worked at Spotify and Blackberry. His channel is a great place to learn JavaScript in a simple way.
  5. Linux Academy - I learned some basic AWS knowledge here.
  6. Computerphile is all about computer stuff. Interesting, but I probably will never understand what they say.
  7. Eli the Computer Guy - Networks and Servers.
  8. mycodeschool is a great channel with the CS50.

Articles I read:

Other useful resources:

  1. JavaScript: Understanding the Weird Parts - Great JS Course
  2. CS50 at Harvard - I think that these 50 lectures are mandatory for anyone to watch
  3. NYMY - Episode 1 - Pieter Levels - Course of the talented designer Tobias van Schneider.

How i got the job

After 4 months of continuous code writing, I could finally say I have a minimal knowledge of front-end development. At the same time, money for life became less and less.

It's time to look for a new job.

Unfortunately, I had practically no choice. Not many companies need a person who does not have experience, and who in the past was a graphic designer. It was also sad to have less than five jobs that might have been suitable for me. On the other hand, the situation made me focus on these precious vacancies.

I have been considering the Tenten design agency for at least three years. This is the only agency in Taiwan to use design, digital development, and innovation. For a long time I dreamed of working there. Over the past two months of my training, I have learned everything that is needed for the position of June. Meanwhile, I have finished my personal website. When the time has ripened, I applied for this position. As an alternate aerodrome, I sent my resume and portfolio to the other five companies. And I was waiting.



Looking back, I still will not say that the path from designer to developer was easy, but it was not as difficult as I thought.

Congratulations if you found this motivation. If you haven’t done so, try again. After all, until you try, you don’t know whether it’s worth it.

The most important lesson I learned along the way is to start doing something as soon as possible. I know that it’s scary to take the first step, but this is the only way to really learn something. Remember, having tried, you will not lose anything.

Work problems are another story.

I am very pleased that I have been a front-end developer at Tenten for 6 months now. It's only the beginning!