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Your Web Design Is Not A Piece Of Art

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Filed Under on March 19th, 2012

Art is about personal expression. It is about the life, the emotions, the thoughts and ideas of the artist. It matters very little what observers do, their activity is not required, only their appreciation. The practice of Art doesn’t require them. It is a necessary activity for the artist, and the artist alone.

Design, on the other hand, is about use. We as designers need someone to use (not only appreciate) what we create. Design doesn’t serve its purpose without people to use it. Design helps solve human problems. The highest accolade we can bestow on a design is not that it is beautiful, but that it is well-used. Design is always contextual. It matters when a design was created because of the context of its use: what problem is it supposed to solve? And for whom? At what point in time? This is why design is so related to technology, because technology changes so quickly, so must our designs. A design that worked ten years ago might not even be worth considering today. History is littered with wonderful designs that are no longer necessary.

The litmus test. When people enjoy Art, they say “I like that”. When people enjoy Design, they say “That works well”. This is not by accident. Good Design is something that works well.

Great Web Design is Invisible

An interesting property of great design is that it is taken for granted. It works so well that we forget that creative effort was involved to bring it about. Sometimes, like with the lowly spoon, the object is so simplistic that it seems obvious, and we disregard that at one point in history it wasn’t. Other times, like with the automobile, the object is so sophisticated yet easy-to-use that we’re blinded to the fact that millions and millions of human-hours went into getting it to this point. That’s a shame…every great design has a rich history. And every design has behind it a designer or designers who tried to make the world a better place by solving some problem or another.

Bad design is obvious because it hurts to use. It is awkward, difficult, and complex. In a great irony of the world, bad design is much easier to see than good design. Because of its success, great web design is often invisible.

Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication

As Saint Exupery said, “In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.”

Simplicity is treading a line: knowing what to keep and what to throw away…it comes across as magic when it works, because none of the complexity is transferred to users…only simplicity.


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