About ten years ago I got ahold of an 'Evaluation' copy of PhotoShop (ver. 4!) and started using it as a fancy colage tool. Eventualy I worked on making layouts for web pages, and then web pages themselves. I was a hobby Web Designer, making pages for trade and my pretend portfolio, for about 6 years until I fell into a web design job at Display & Costume (now Party @ Display & Costume) and learned that what I knew was pretty much just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the real-world. I ate it all up, from CSS to XML I was immersed in a single website that was far more complex than any brochure site I had worked on before. 10K products later I feel I have a fairly good hold on this type of shopping cart system, and I am infatuated with the web culture. I know better than to think I have more than touched on the possibilities of the internet, and I love the fact that I am adding my (small) part to this burgeoning social space.
While I did go to collage for art, I didn't take many design classes, but I inherited my eye for design from my artistic familly. I know when things look right and when they look half assed, this isn't me braging; in fact it's stunted my growth a bit because when I started designing nothing looked right. It's also a bitch to walk away from a project when it doesn't look right. Cutting my teeth at web design the same time as the web itself is maturing has been a fantastic experience. I have grown and made my mistakes along with the rest of the web and benifited. My learning experience is dealing directly with the web as a human-computer interface. Some traditional designers see webpages as just a paper analog and has to have every word and picture line up 'just so' (or it drives them nuts, it's actually fun to watch a designer have a meltdown over excessive whitespace ;). Good web design for me is not a static representation of paper but a beautiful interactive computer-human interface that can adapt to the user's needs*. It's up to a good designer to make that possible.
* I favour a blend of fluid/fixed width layouts because there are so many advantages over fixed-width when you consider adaptability and accessability (products not people). You don't have to play the numbers game (stats) when you broaden the range of your site from mobile to monitor. It goes without saying every site has it's different design requirements, but there are far too many sites that don't take advantage of what a fluid design has to offer. Yes, it's harder initially, but so is designing and updating a second site for a different sized screen. I am looking at your design-school layout and it's fixed for no other reason than your stunted view of asthetics. ok, ok, yes I'm expecting overmuch. Designers design, developers make it work. But as designers you often have a say in when a site is fixed and whether it's fluid, what do you default to? Go ahead, tax the dev group, make them think outside the table. If you truly want to shine as a designer: make that great looking sites look that great for all your clients. Your clients didn't go to design school, the don't care about the traditional way of doing things. They didn't hire you to design the brochure, they hired you to design their portal. Why design a piece of paper as a web page? That web page is capable of so much more! Fucking Flex that Shit Man! And before you write me in a tiff saying that fixed width is better, think about what I just said: all things even, no specific size requirements, and your going to tell me that from a user point of view this site that is fixed and doesn't adapt to the size of the user wants is better than the one that does? And what size is that? in this world of variable display resolutions, not to mention variable resolution mobile products. At that point the designer is imposing asthetic over the usability. If you must put limits or things will break, put a min/max width on it, don't default to fixed. Design for a range of resolutions and you can cover your bases for the majority. Group display sizes into small/med/large and that way you only have to design css layouts for three instead of inconviencting your viewers with one that may not work to their needs.
One day a week (and one evening) I take a break from the computer and cast, paint, and sell gargoyles for Gargoyles Statuary in the University District of Seattle. It's something I've done part time for years and I find it a relaxing break from the computer-laden work-week. I've found the people at Gargoyles are a fun gang and have added greatly to my circle of friends. And this way I don't have to buy gargoyles, I can just visit them at work.