It’s time for another issue of the Teacher Spotlight, where we interview one of the Treehouse Teachers so you can get to know them a little better offscreen, and enjoy a sneak peek into their story, their inspirations and what makes them tick.
This month the spotlight is on front-end designer and Teacher, Guil Hernandez. In this interview, Guil talks about his past, his passion for design, what brought him to Treehouse, and what he’s looking forward to for the future.
When did you first become interested in front-end design?
I didn’t know much HTML and CSS right out of college. I did a lot graphic design work at first, designing logos, ad creative, and Photoshop mockups. I also did a lot of Flash work back then.
It wasn’t until I had my first full time job in the web industry that I learned to code. I would stay up all night doing tutorials and reading books so that I wouldn’t be completely lost the next day at work. But I really liked it, so I stuck with it.
How did your career evolve in the web industry?
At first, I dabbled in freelancing until I got hired at a startup in South Florida where I helped design rich media creative and a lot marketing websites and landing pages.
I guess they liked the work I was doing––the late night studying paid off––because I was later put in charge of the design department.
Soon after, I moved on to a different agency because I wanted to do more front-end work for websites and applications. Meanwhile, I was also taking on loads client work on the side. It was pretty exhausting, but that’s how I really honed many of my front-end dev skills.
Again, I must have been doing OK at work, because later, I earned the opportunity to lead the design team. My last year there kept me really busy with mobile design & development, and front-end performance projects.
What brought you to Treehouse?
I knew all about Treehouse and their mission to change the world through technology from the very beginning––since the day they launched as Think Vitamin Membership.
I really wanted to be a part of tech education and helping people. The moment I realized that I could play a part in changing people’s lives by teaching them how to code, I knew that’s where I had to be.
Fortunately, I’ve already seen some of our members’ lives change since I’ve been at Treehouse. It’s very rewarding. There’s no doubt this is the best industry to be a part of right now.
How do you balance being a teacher and a designer?
The 4-day work week helps and I tend prioritize a lot. I understand that I need to set aside time for personal design and front-end dev projects in order to stay sharp and be a better teacher.
Lately, I’ve been spending most of my work time writing and refining content, coming up with cool projects to teach, and seeking ways to improve teaching efficacy. I also spend a lot of time in CodePen experimenting with stuff.
With so many conferences on the calendar at the moment, which design conferences would you recommend?
I recently attended Front-End Design Conference in St. Petersburg, FL. I’d have to say it’s one of my favorites at the moment––they do a great job. I’m also interested in attending the upcoming Circles and Blend Conferences.
Design conferences are the best way to meet people who share your love for design, technology, and the web. You come out of them recharged with inspiration and possible lifelong friends. I highly recommend attending at least 1 or 2 conferences a year.
Who are some of your favourite designers at the moment?
I’ve always admired Ryan Singer’s approach to UI design. He got me really interested in learning about the mechanics of interfaces: breaking things down into simple functions (or tasks) that enable users to create outcomes they want.
Also, Lea Verou, she is a CSS artist. Her projects and presentations continually push the capabilities of CSS. She does unimaginable things with such simplicity––a true forward-thinker.
Other designers and developers I follow are Daniel Burka, Jessica Hische, Paul Irish, and Cameron Moll.
What is the most valuable advice you would give Treehouse students who are interested in front-end design?
Focus and practice a ton. It doesn’t come easy, so you’ll need to push yourself.
If you find yourself trying to wrap your head around a difficult concept, write about it. You’ll be surprised how synthesizing your thoughts into writing can bring clarity to something.
Try things that scare you. That means stepping out of your comfort zone – it will always be there for you. Make the best out of every opportunity – big or small.
When learning to design, imitate the masters. There’s nothing wrong with doing that as long as you develop your own style.
The most important thing is to pay close attention to the details in everything you do: writing, coding, designing, etc… You’ll soon find out how truly rewarding it can be.
Are there any new techniques or technologies you’ve been excited about lately or are looking forward to later this year?
I’m really excited about how CSS preprocessors like Sass have made writing CSS so much fun and efficient. I think it’s time we all embrace preprocessors in some way, even if it’s just for the variables feature, nesting, or dealing with those pesky vendor prefixes.
I’m also looking forward to using many of the new CSS features like flexbox, filter effects, and the upcoming CSS Shapes module as fully implemented web standards.
Finally, I’m totally pumped about the future of tech education. There is a lot of work to be done and archaic education models to disrupt.
Tell us something about yourself you don’t think anyone would ever assume!
Long before I knew what a code editor was, I was a musician. I played trumpet for over 10 years. I even received a music scholarship and performed in front of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people throughout the years. It was a lot of fun.
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