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Part: 3 Getting Creative

Part 3: Getting Creative

Editors' Poll: Has the Web Changed How Designers Approach Their Work?

DR: Because of its interactive nature, the Web has forced designers to understand how users interact with information. It's no longer enough to create a piece based on how people passively view it; now, a design has to encompass the next step—how the viewer will go past the initial design, deeper into the piece. Web design is one of the most demanding kinds of design work.

ML: Designers have changed the way Webmasters approach their work. The Web used to be the place to get information quickly. Now it's a place to waste bandwidth and time waiting for large graphics and embedded multimedia files to load. Not everyone has a T1 connection to the Net.

GS: I was schooled in traditional typography and design, and the transition to the Web has been a tremendous upheaval. The unpredictability of the Web is a big factor. You can control what comes off the printing press, but you can't control how a browser will mangle your Web site. So you are forced to compromise, so that the maximum number of people can see a reasonable approximation of your site's design and content without having to go out and seek a different browser.

SS: Just as we saw a huge influx of would-be desktop publishers leaping onto the bandwagon when layout software for the masses was introduced, we're now seeing a similar effect in Web design. Although many truly beautiful, awe-inspiring, and informative Web sites are out there, they are far outnumbered by gaudy, amateurish ones. As happened with desktop publishing, though, one of two things will happen. Either we'll get design templates that allow a novice to create a presentable Web site or people will realize that for a business site to look its best, they'll have to pay a professional designer.

JF: It has deranged designers' minds to the point that they have started to think that printed pages should look like Web pages.

DM: The influence of the browser on all content—print, television, multimedia, packaging, you name it—has been a curse. Everything today looks like a Web page or an element. Yech! This trend has ignored that each media type has its own strengths and design paradigms for delivering information. Why would anyone want to read a whole article in white text on a dark blue background? That may be fine for a display that pumps out light in the text but it's horrible for small text on a reflective media such as paper. Or why clutter a television screen—still a low-resolution device—with a passel of moving elements and text that blunts the impact of the clip.

JR: The influence of the Web is exaggerated. The iMac had more influence on consumer product design than the Web. I use the Web all the time, but it hasn't been the driving force in society and art that people make it out to be. It's not replacing books, it's not replacing retail stores, it's not replacing schools or libraries. The biggest design influence of the Web has been in the design of Microsoft Windows, where folders now act like Web browsers. Is this good?

KT: The Internet has made some things faster and more convenient for designers—clients can (and do) send text files and some photos electronically, and designers can return PDFs for approval and then send files for output. This saves paper, cuts down faxing and FedEx bills, and tightens turnaround times (which may or may not be a blessing). The effect of the Web is more problematic. Although designers can now buy and download fonts, clip art, stock photos, and other elements from Web sources, this easy access, coupled with pressure on the bottom line, has increased the use of generic art for much design work—to the detriment of visual and technical quality. (This is especially likely when clients pick up photos from the Web and expect to have them used in print work.) The effect of the Web on designers is a mixed bag, at best.



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