A lot of people become interested in graphic design when they take an introductory class, learn about design through advertising, or work on the design team for their high school yearbook or newspaper. I, on the other hand, became interested in graphic design before I even learned the phrase “graphic design.” It all started when my 10-year-old self began using Neopets.com.
Neopets is not a design site for kids. Neopets is a site where you have virtual pets that you can buy items for and feed, expect they don’t actually need food. You can build a house for them and chat about Neopets on the forums. You can play fun games and earn Neopoints. You can create a guild for like-minded people who also have Neopets, and you can design layouts in Photoshop and use HTML and CSS to style your guild and profile. Wait, what?
Believe it or not, I’m not alone here. Actually, far from it. According to this post on Reddit and this other post on Reddit, lots of designers and developers became interested in their field after they learned basic coding and design at a young age.
As a typical preteen, I was very into celebrities, so I would design layouts for the homepages of celebrity-themed guilds. This just meant finding a famous model or actress and using the colors from her outfit to design a complimentary background. Looking back on them, they weren’t that bad. Besides some basic UI flaws and weird obsessions with using Tokyo fashion districts to name guilds, the basic knowledge of color, typography, and layout design was there. Well, as much as it could be there for a 5th grader. Below are a couple of my best designs from back in the day…
I remember instantly loving playing with different colors and layouts. I remember enjoying the entire design process, loving the challenges that came along the way, and eagerly looking forward to working on the next design. I do not remember why my username was candyapplex. I think I was trying to be edgy. I was probably in my Avril Lavigne phase then.
Conclusion: Everything you do in your childhood will shape you and determine your career path. Just kidding. But if you’re an elementary/middle/high school student reading this, know that the things you enjoy doing now are things you could pursue professionally. When I was making these graphics for Neopets, I had no idea I was a graphic designer. I had no idea graphic design was even a career I could go into. I just knew that I liked designing things digitally and having creative freedom on the computer, because the options were limitless. Then I learned what graphic design was and (slowly) began to connect the dots and realize that this was a profession that really interested and excited me. So, kids: Stay in school. But also do cool stuff in your free time and explore your interests. As designer Jessica Hische said, “The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”