This morning a post by a graphic designer named Ben Terrett in London peaked my interest with the long title Data, Branding, Web Design, Pouring Acid Into My Eyeballs and What Graphic Design Is For. In it Ben began discussing the link between the new paradigm of repurposing data (for example, a real estate Google Maps mashup On One Map) and how this relates to branding. This is something I’d never considered out loud before his post – if our data is being repurposed we need to consider how our branding might be maintained within the data. How can we structure our data so that we don’t lose control of it? And, do we want to control it is another question worth asking.
Another challenge in that mix is the radically different medium of the web as opposed to print.
- In print design you control the experience
- In print design everyone has the same experience
- In print design history is a reliable guide
These things just aren’t true in web design. People have different browsers, different screens, different font sizes. The conventions change from one month to the next, what worked last year doesn’t work this year. People don’t start at the start. There is no start. And so on and so on.Ben Terrett
So, he puts forward, this places graphic design back into the direction of sorting through information and making it easier – through the design – for people to absorb it. Which is where we really should have been in the first place, in my humble opinion. Design isn’t about creating beautiful pictures but about creating things that work on a number of levels. Heirarchies, for one.
I’m flabbergasted that whenever I’ve run into graphic designers and these deeper elements have come forward in conversation the vast majority aren’t interested in heirarchies, information architecture or models of interaction. The vast majority are interested in the visual aesthetics… that’s not being harsh to anyone but its the plain fair truth of it. Interestingly, Ben points out that data itself is pushing back into the design realm and we’re – or some of us – are having to adjust.
I’m often asked about my passion for web design and web technologies and its often just as hard for me to produce a solid answer to that without boxing myself into someone else’s mental model incorrectly. I guess Ben’s article peaks that part of me where the passion sits – I’m interested in interaction design, how people react, the way data and information (because they are different) contribute to our experiences of interfaces and applications. I’m not a graphic designer (unless minimalist gains me entry by default) and I’m probably not a true technician beyond a broad base knowledge, a number of opinions and the dogged ability to get things done eventually. I’m not even a front end coding specialist in my opinion. But I do know an awful lot about how all this stuff fits together. The way we shape information and interfaces dramatically affects the value we can get back as users. That’s my value proposition in a nutshell. I’m interested in a little more than just design, coding or marketing on their own.
If you didn’t read Ben’s article Data, Branding, Web Design, Pouring Acid Into My Eyeballs and What Graphic Design Is For run over and follow his intext links as you progress. Its an inspiring read (especially the brilliant article All Change by London design consultancy Johnson Banks about the design of flexible identity).