The Design Center, DT&G Web Design & Review / Visual Crimes / Popular Question  

... what's the most popular question?

How do we know?

"How do we know what's good or bad?"

Many people believe that if you know design for paper, you'll do okay on the web. Others preach whistles and bells for programming html, cgi, Java, and the other technical tools for the implementation of web presence.

Few people actually sit down and ask why -- or evaluate how the approach window drastically affects the reader in the way their attention is held. Fewer still actually put strong rationale to the techniques they use. The web frenzy has obscured a visual relationship.

If we critiqued your last project together, could you give me good reasons why you made all the design decisions that you did? Could you convince me that they were the best decisions?

"The WEB has a way of making people forget everything they've learned about design, marketing and good taste."

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times...

"Oh, I did it because I thought it looked cool!"

Some web reviewers and almost all magazine writers think that "cool" is the same thing as successful.

What's cool?

What is supposed to be cool has absolutely no bearing on design whatsoever.

If it's a successful design, it will be cool whether anyone calls it cool or not. I'm holding a book on "Creating Cool Web Pages with HTML" right in my hand, and I count the word "cool" five times just on the covers! It says "Designing web pages FAST." Then I open the book and instantly I realize that must be the way they did the book.... FAST. Because, it doesn't look like design had anything to do with it!

Developing powerful skills to put your mark on the WEB requires a set of mental tools that most never knew about, or have forgotten in the frenzy to get on the web. New mediums of communication require a new look at design... new questions to be asked.

That's another problem

Authors of books and magazine articles about traditional media may not be prepared to guide you into the new mediums. One well known writer of design for printing recently posted an article on designing for electronic mediums. It was well written and made a number of good points. Yet the premise of the entire piece was slightly skewed. This writer, although well versed in print media, was writing as if talking to the newsletter staff and missed the major points of designing for the screen.

Too bad. Thousands will read those writings and think it's gospel.

Moving information and communications from traditional mediums to monitors, slide screens and projection walls introduces a different ball game for designers, illustrators and writers. As I've always said, design is design. That's true.

But all designers are duty-bound to design for the reader. If it's a reader of an online, or on-screen medium -- it ain't paper! The rules and tools have changed. And that's where you'll get the edge.

Next: The Challenge of Learning


Fred Showker toured with DGEF (Dynamic Graphics Educational Foundation) from 1989 through 1995 conducting seminars throughout the U.S. on Creative Layout Techniques, Web Design and Newsletter Design.

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