Web Design Student Named Best in Nation

JWU student Rob Erskine has designed websites since he was 13. Now he's won First Place Overall, Web Site Design at the DECA International Career Development Conference.

The Graphic Design & Digital Media major says he owes his win to his professors: “They sort of give you the nudge you need.”

DECA first place winner Rob Erskine' 13

Born to Design
Rob was obsessed with web design as a kid. But he wasn’t always an expert. “My first design was a periodic table for junior high,” he says. “It was so bad!”

But he knew he wanted to design, and he worked at it. “I’ve been emailing professionals since I was a kid, asking for advice,” he says.

“That’s why I chose JWU. It’s huge that the professors actually work in web design.”

Making it Happen at JWU
So he brought a little expertise to JWU. “One of the running jokes with my mom,” he says, "is I keep telling her I’ll drop out and start my own company."

"But really, if I wasn’t at JWU, I wouldn’t have these connections. I wouldn’t meet CEOs from Fortune 500’s, or make a presentation at GTECH.”

JWU student Ro's award-winning website designFor Rob, JWU just felt right. “I came to visit for Wildcat Weekend, and I sat in on Brian Alves’ design class. I loved it."

Etsy for Poster Designers
The DECA conference challenge was to create an ecommerce website for a real client. Rob knew exactly what he wanted to do.

“I’ve collected poster designs since forever. But there’s no one site to look through all artists' work.” So Rob created one. “Like etsy.com, but more personal.”

Nudge You Need: Guidance from a Professor
He also checked in with Prof. Alves constantly. "I like working with Brian,” he grins. “If your work isn’t up to snuff, he’ll tell you.”

This helped Rob build a professional portfolio, and it also helped him focus his design, he says. “I kept thinking about what my professors told me: This is for a client. You want it to resonate with the market.”

Winning the Award
The competition was steep at the DECA conference in Orlando, where 15,000 competitors gathered. Rob had to talk to top judges from the design industry.

“I was more nervous about the Top 10 round,” he says. “Once I got through that, I felt ok.” Then he won. “The lights were in my face,” he says. “It was … awesome.”

And the months he spent working on the site outside of class time? Worth it? “I don’t need credit,” he laughs, holding up his award. “I’m fine with this hardware.”