Popular Science Vintage Cover

It’s out of your hands

Something you poured your guts into, all of your skill into will one day be dismantled. Maybe it’s an art director that’ll do it, or a client, maybe the technology you built it for will become outmoded, or maybe you’ll do it yourself so you can move on for whatever reason. Often the process is painful, and disheartening. Recently I read (and I wish I could remember the source if it sounds familiar please help me out) that building for the web is like building a sandcastle and waiting for the tide to come in. Wash and repeat, that’s just how it goes. And it is true. But design has always been this way, commercial work is for the masses, often for the moment, and it won’t be uncommon that it’ll be at the mercy of someone who doesn’t know their ass from their head.

So it goes.

Relationships change, business models change, technology changes and so will you. As long as you are still taking useful knowledge away from the experience you are doing it right. If you didn’t well then… you should be re-evaluating the choice to work on it to begin with. And you should probably stop doing favors for people. That’s what you did didn’t you? Yeah I thought so. It smarts and I’m sorry if you feel bad about it when it happens. I send an interweb hug to you I feel you my friend. Take heart you will make many, many great things and I look forward to seeing them. I hope the feeling is mutual.

Popular Science Vintage Cover

It's okay let it burn.

glossy 8x10 number 1

You will be a victim of style

It’s just a matter to what degree. It’s common knowledge I like to give my unsolicited opinion on any given number of topics and usually aforementioned topic is a design choice that offends me. And usually it offends me because it’s a cliche, a poorly executed technique, ill-advised type selection or instantly recognizable photoshop filter. Well okay that’s the short list of things that offend me if I’m to be truthful. Crocs, turned up polo collars, shabby chic, Ed Hardy, and sugar substitutes also offend me. Now where was I? Right style and victimizing yourself by it’s hand.

Recently a close friend sent me to http://yourlogomakesmebarf.com/ I snickered for hours. I looked at no less than than 8 pages of the blog. I was equal parts horrified and bemused. Look a lot of people even people in my life often think my job is easy-peasey, “Oh you are a designer and web person. Well that sounds FUN!” In fairness yes sometimes it is, in fact it’s a lot more fun than filing TPS reports, can’t argue that. But it’s also torture sometimes, because the job really is half psychology. And the longer a business has been in action the more bad design relationships they’ve probably been in. So I hear things all the time like, just so you know “I really hate yellow”, “at this seminar one time I heard blue makes people feel relaxed”, “I really want to use a gradient or an effect on this *insert whatever design element*”, “the last designer I worked with never communicated with me”… I could go on. So I metaphorically and sometimes in real life hold their hand, look into their eyes and say, “you can relax now you are working with me I’m going to remove this stress from your life. Leave me in charge and I promise you’ll be happy but you gotta trust me.” Okay I don’t really hold clients hands, maybe once or twice, but those folks where real basket cases. Generally in fact the hand holders were damaged goods and I had to fire them. But that’s for another day. Again I digress.

If you want to evaluate if what you have done is cliche, passe and or outright cringe inducing remember the old adage. Know who your client is and why they matter. A bomerang swoosh is probably not the right answer, also probably not the answer, sparkles, flames, drop shadows, bevels and linear gradients. The trendiest web effect, I’m looking at you glossy reflections, probably suspect. Anything published in Photoshop magazine or other “tutorial site” as “cool type effects” be very wary. All in all be wary of style, it’s often a trap. Focus on solutions, focus on usability and make sure it functions as flawlessly as possible. As a communicator by trade my motto is indeed function should precede form. Things that work they way they should are almost always by default beautiful. You aren’t going to win every battle with your art director or clients. But if you come to the table with sound logic, you’ll have a much better chance than if you say “it just looks better this way, I can’t explain it”. Next time try “The user analytics tell me the average user only has a screen 800 pixels wide and a lot of them are still using I.E. *cringe* so we really must accommodate these users if we want return visits from these folks.” And yeah use the word “folks” that’s a pro-tip makes you sound accessible and everyone thinks us designers are snobby, elitist, D-bags with overly complicated starbuck orders. Which is silly most of us drink way better coffee than that.

In any case I leave you with another find from my vintage photo treasure trove. I spent a lot of hours with the 35 mm scanner this week to illustrate my point with the fine, fine lost art of the seventies pose the groovy style is a given. I figure most of these folks were aspiring actors in L.A. But I have no names or photographer contact. Just lonely anonymous 35mm strips. They all look like pretty sweet people, but I think we can agree victims of style most of them might be. Do not do this to your work design or otherwise compatriots, you do not want Farrah hair on your design. Well unless it’s a sweet parody on a seventies exploitation flick. Then get that airbrush out, Seriously get it out.

bouffant meet seventies kitsche

glossy 8x10 number 1

bouffant meet kitsche

glossy 8x10 number 2

This is natural and not a staged photo, no really

glossy 8x10 #3

Suspicious plant to the right meet fashun

8x10 glossy #4

glossy 8x10 #5

whoa background pattern!