I retired in 2016 after spending two decades as a freelance website designer. Upon doing so, I took down my portfolio website (newark1.com), thinking that there was no need to maintain it if I no longer sought clients. However, something inspired me to restore an archival version of my website. It tracks the history of web design from the perspective of one designer who jumped on to the Web at its inception, and stayed on for a long and colorful ride.

The inspiration for archiving my web design work came from an article on Tyrus Wong, the largely unknown Chinese-American artist whose watercolor sketches were the foundation for iconic Walt Disney animated movies including "Bambi," and later Warner Bros. live action movies like "Rebel Without a Cause." A 90-minute documentary on the life of Tyrus Wong chronicles his struggle to overcome racism while making his place in the world of movies and animation. It airs on PBS on Sept. 8, 2017.

I began to think back on the challenges I faced as an African-American web designer. Coming from a graphic design background in advertising, I wanted to stamp the 'World Wide Web' with my own style of 'humanistic' web design. As I began to do freelance work for clients nationally, most of whom I never met face-to-face, I discovered that hiding my racial heritage removed a potential barrier to obtaining new projects. For many years my web design sold itself. Perhaps, not making my race obvious has robbed me of the opportunity to inspire future web designers of color. Reading the story of Tyrus Wong inspired me to preserve a record of my work so that at some level it may inspire some who do not "fit the mold" to reach out in fields where they are underrepresented.

My design solutions reflects the needs of the small business clients I served. My goal was to add the human touch to all of my websites, imbuing them with human emotions of warmth, kindness and hospitality that touched the widest possible audience. This can be seen in the my first effort at web design, "Paris, My Love," created in 1996.

I hope you enjoy my work. Thanks for visiting!

Don Peterson

 

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