When I started web design back in 1997, I dove in head first, creating cheesy animation-full websites. It was fun, we all did it.
As time progressed, and I started getting clients, I’d need to be a bit more creative, so I’d simply look for another website in the clients’ industry (but in a different part of the country) and basically swipe their code. Then I’d modify the words and whiz-bang a website. I did this both because it was cheap and I wouldn’t haven’t to pay a designer – meaning more profit.
Over time, I realized the err of my ways and started creating original websites, which I should have been doing all along. I came across Template Monster and several others, and soon I was creating ‘original’ template websites. Sure, they still looked like a few other similar sites on the web, but at least they weren’t just plain stolen.
Well, after that phase, I discovered sites like 99designs and I’ve never gone back. Having people fight over the creation of your design, and being able to specify the budget is just awesome.
As you can see over time I’ve progressed with my web design. Problem is, there are “web designers” who have been doing this for years, but still can’t figure out how to modify a table or create thumbnails. And don’t even think about getting me started on PHP or perl. They’re clueless.
If you want to be a great designer, keep up with the latest info. Take the time to understand the industry. Teach yourself. Buy books. Understand.
If you can’t, or don’t have time, then you’re doing a great disservice to “true” designers, and IMO you’re in the wrong industry.