Jackson Fox’s Weblog

Interaction designer, student, and all around web geek

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A Design Diatribe

September 5th, 2007 · No Comments

Khoi Vinh:

There’s also another, more formal idea at work on A Brief Message: the notion that online publications don’t necessarily need to be decorated databases. They can be art directed, too.

This past week Liz Danzico and Khoi Vinh launched a much lauded new site called A Brief Message. The goal of the site, as stated on the about page, is as follows:

A Brief Message features design opinions expressed in short form. Somewhere between critiques and manifestos, between wordy and skimpy, Brief Messages are viewpoints on design in the real world. They’re pithy, provocative and short — 200 words or less.

As one would expect from a site founded by designers, written by designers, and featuring writing about design, A Brief Message is well illustrated, impeccably typeset, follows all of the modern thinking on grid-based web design, and even features tasteful ads from The Deck. The first piece touches on a subject near and dear to the hearts of many designers: The Death of Print. Honestly, I feel somewhat unworthy of writing about the site. I find myself pondering every punctuation mark and scrutinizing every sentence a dozen times.

The problem is that I don’t feel welcome at A Brief Message. I don’t mean to say that I feel unwelcome at just this site, in fact I feel the same way about Design Observer and many other design-oriented sites. Nor do I mean to imply that the individuals that write, run, and comment at A Brief Message make me feel unwelcome. I feel unwelcome because I don’t understand their Design. It simply isn’t my design.

Recently, I’ve noticed a marked change in the language that is used on the websites that I frequent. “Art direction” seems to be popping up everywhere now, names like Michael Beirut are getting dropped, and everyone seems to be a member or leader in AIGA. Maybe it really isn’t the discourse that has changed, maybe it’s me, but I’m finding it harder and harder to relate. I have never worked for an “agency.” I did not go to design school. In fact, I majored in Computer Science. What I know of typography, color, and grids I learned from the web (much of it from Khoi’ s blog).

I consider myself to be a designer. I have called myself a web designer, a user experience designer, and an interaction designer, but regardless of how I couch the term I consider myself a designer. My job is to create a pleasurable and usable experience for our authors. I spend a lot of time creating page flows, wireframes, reviewing alternative designs, collecting feedback on designs, and then communicating the sum of those parts to our development team. I work for a smallish company, so I get to do my fair share of coding as well. Honestly, I’ve come to dislike the term design because it is so hard to define and because it belongs to so many traditions (old and new).

I don’t see my experience reflected in design writing online. Most likely I’m looking in the wrong places, expecting too much from people who have no obligation to conform their views to my own. It’s just that I don’t feel like it’s always been this way.

Of course, if I so rarely contribute to the discussion, how can I expect others to?

PS — My apologies to Khoi and Liz, A Brief Message is a wonderful site and it’s unfair of me to single it out like this.

PPS — This was probably the wrong time to ditch my old theme and revert to the WordPress default.

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