Alex Heflin

full stack

Four years ago I began my journey to become a Graphic Designer. DAAP had just merged the Graphic and Digital design majors into one super-major, titled “Graphics Communication Design”, and I would be a member of the first graduating class to bear that title. I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to become a well-rounded designer; equally exposed to digital and graphic disciplines. However, this was not necessarily the case. I knew from the get-go I wanted to strive to be an expert in web design – especially the coding aspect, but that isn’t what DAAP had in store for me.

Over the next few years, I would (mostly) teach myself how to utilize HTML and CSS, and with the help of my first co-op, jQuery. This was my gateway to development. In the early stages of picking up jQuery, I thought I wanted to be just a front-end developer. jQuery was awesome and I thought it would be the end-all-be-all for me. What else did I need to know to implement awesome websites?

As it turns out, I need to learn a lot more. Which brought me to my first realization:

Logic is logic is logic. Right?

When learning jQuery, I realized it was all about the logic. Once you learn the language, what’s the next step? How the code is structured and the process in which it executes. Growing up I loved math and science, and the fact there was reason and structure behind problem solving. This is what I craved; I needed more structured problem solving in my workflow. Don’t get me wrong – design has it’s principles, but most of it is subjective. This difference made me feel like this was the right direction in which to proceed.

I don’t love just the front end. I need MORE.

I wanted to know what makes a website really tick. I knew there was more than just pretty type and a nice layout. But what? jQuery was the spark that lit my curiosity. It was great. It was easy enough to pick up over a short amount of time, and I felt like I was good at it. But what other languages could I get into? What would I need to know to make a fully-functioning website on my own?

Design vs Development

As a full-stack developer (in training) I would identify myself as a problem solver in both roles. Keeping this trait in mind as I transition is very important. In the beginning, I expected this endeavor to be incredibly difficult. However, since I’ve already gained problem solving skills through design, the transition is going more smoothly than I would have imagined. This being said, I believe more designers could take on this role with great success if they have the passion to drive them.

As I explore development with JavaScript and Ruby on Rails, I’m finding that I have A LOT ahead of me.