I've been an application developer for over 40 years and I'm a rabid supporter of the "database design is FIRST" philosophy.
But I take a bit of exception to Steve's "learn to script" emphasis, downplaying GUIs. The primary reason I say this is the existence of proper ERD design tools. Things like Rational Rose and ModelRight are first and foremost visual design tools to let you design a database the same way a building is designed--using a CAD tool approach.
They automate documentation of the database the same way architectural blueprints document a building. And then turn around and create the scripts that create the database on disk for you automatically. Then they let you safely modify the design/documentation/development database in a controlled and reproducible manner.
You can even put the ERD under source control. 🙂
With Redgate's SQL Compare (another GUI tool) you can painlessly migrate changes from development to QA to production.
Without manual scripting.
Now, is that to say you don't need to learn scripting? Absolutely not! You need to know T/SQL scripting for all sorts of reasons. But a good ERD design tool emits scripts you can study to see how a properly designed database should be scripted.
ERD tools also presuppose you know how to design a properly normalized database, when to use indexes, the importance of constraints and triggers and foreign keys and all the rest. Every developer needs to know database design, it's a crucial and unavoidable part of development to know the whys of database theory. That's just as important as OOP and in a weird sort of way is a kind of OOP.
Finally, I acknowledge proper database design is a pretty big learning curve if you've never done it. And yes, there are aspects of it that are more art than science. But if you're going to be writing database applications (and face it, very few applications aren't) you need to know proper database design.
Full stop. 😛
Having said that, for God's sake, get some power tools! There's no sense trying to build the Empire State Building of databases using hand-saws and hammers, right?