Web / Design: A Novice’s Thoughts

Almost every novel I read makes me want to write, just as most cookbooks make me want to cook and many photography books inspire me to take photos. I have yet to come across any inspiring books on web design, though, and I suspect it’s because web designers don’t do as much pure design as the title implies. In other words, perhaps web design has failed to become an artistic medium and simply lacks the material to make an inspiring book.

So I wonder if web designers could become better designers if they emulated the Architect’s system of getting an engineer’s opinion only after his or her imagination has been inked on paper. That is, perhaps we should free ourselves from writing html and css as a profession. Such a strategy might have a better chance at reproducing the radical genius of Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry, if only because web designers could stop handicapping themselves with their fascination with code and the limitations code implies.

Web / Design: A Novice’s Thoughts, by Saha

10 Comments leave a comment below

  1. A novice indeed. Interesting article, and interesting ideas, however the writer has completely overlooked the MASSES of CSS Inspiration galleries. The very idea of a novel is that it is a book, as with cookbooks and there is an argument that art and photography is made to be published physically.

    Websites are designed for screen, it’s only right that we (as designers) display our great, or terrible, designs on screen.

  2. As big a fan as I am of books, they fail miserably when it comes to conveying the “feel” of websites, especially modern websites full of wonderful (and, of couse, accessible) interactive content.

    On the other hand it is true that we as web designers sometimes put technical limitations before boundless creativity. We need to remind ourselves to think of the solution first and the implementation second.

    Lastly, the statement that art hasn’t gained a foothold in web design yet is simply not true. There are more beautiful, thought-provoking, surprising and enjoyable websites every day.

  3. It seems to me that the code is part of the art of web design, and to dismiss it out of hand as something non-meaningful or unnecessarily limiting misses the point by a wide margin. Artful code makes the site usable as much as artful design makes it beautiful. Both are important.

    Frank Lloyd Wright built homes with no gutters that are completely impractical to live in. Gehry built buildings in snowy parts of the country which are now dangerous to walk near because he didn’t take the weather (and sliding snow) into account. Beautiful buildings, perhaps, but that fall short significantly because they are not also usable.

  4. I tend to think that designers should design and let the css/xhtml guys figure out how to code it. If they run into a problem then changes can be made. Do not limit your design to what you think can be done. Design according to what goal needs to be achieved.

  5. Well, for all their structural gymnastics, Frank Gehry’s buildings are everything BUT “freed from the limitations” that tectonics, gravity and methods of assembly — all “code” — imply. Strip away the titantium and you’ll see a lot of fussy structure under the hood (my favorite part, IMHO!).

  6. “stop handicapping themselves with … the limitations code implies”
    lol, why do authors limit themselves to words, photographers to pictures and architects to material substances?

    but yeah, always think of the look and feel first, before actually starting to code.

  7. “So I wonder if web designers could become better designers if they emulated the Architect’s system of getting an engineer’s opinion only after his or her imagination has been inked on paper. ”

    This exactly what a web designer used to be, before it became ‘expected’ that the web designer should also become the front-end developer, able to code HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP…
    The traditional web Designers role was to sit in Photoshop all day and create designs that would have the coders tearing their hair out.

    However, since designers have taken on more of the coding responsibility, the web has, on the whole become a better place.

    I think the main reason why a web design book doesn’t inspire, is that a webpage is not designed to be viewed in book form. A cookery book is filled with photographs of food that were taken with the specific purpose of being seen in a book – the same with photograghy, art and architecture. You can’t really photograph a website, and there’s no good way of representing a website in a book.
    I think there’s a naivity to some of the whines in this article.

  8. booyah!

    I read this post yesterday and was left thinking about how I would respond to a novice’s thoughts on this.

    Glad that I didn’t post anything because pretty much every response here is more elegant than I could have done!

    That said, creative processes methods that include phrases like ‘…only after…’, especially collaborative ones, sounds pretty limiting in itself.

  9. From an architect’s point of view, some of the most successful designs are the ones in which the architect collaborates with the structural engineer from the outset. At the very least, the architect needs to have a solid understanding of structural and construction principles before putting pen to paper.

    Frank Lloyd Wright created some of his most radical designs based on his knowledge of the structural possibilities of reinforced concrete – he pushed the limits as very few others were willing to do at the time. (Laura, I’d be interested to know which FLW buildings are impractical to live in – I’ve heard this of Mies, but not FLW!)

    Gehry however…well he should just be omitted from any analogies about architecture, unless of course you want to imply that it’s a good thing to wrap your designs in the same skin regardless of content.

  10. Design, like architecture seems to be a balance between understanding limitations and ignoring them. It also seems to be that people do a better job of ignoring or challenging limitations when they understand them.

    Not all web designers need to write code, but I think the less they understand how their designs will be implemented, the more radical genius will be outnumbered by catastrophic failure.