Canonical Web Design, Redux

I have rarely received as much feedback about a piece as I did for Do Canonical Web Designs Exist?

In that piece, I argued that Armin Vit’s Landmark Web Sites, Where Art Thou? was wrongheaded because he was judging web design from a graphic design standpoint. In my experience people aren’t very good judges of web design…and I’m including me, you, and anybody else. Only through actual use can we come to some conclusion about how good a design is. The act of using a web site changes meaning, passion, and value.

Here are some other, similar posts worth reading.

In Defense of Graphic Design on the Web – Christopher Fahey completely disagrees with me. He sees Armin as looking for landmark “graphic design on the web” and not landmark “web design”. If that’s the case, then as I say in the comments I’ll gladly bow out of the discussion and let the graphic designers tear up th carcass. But if Armin meant landmarks of “web design” (which I think he did), then I stick to my story…

I’m not a designer, but I play one on this blog – Jen Spadafora suggests that web sites really can’t be landmarks because they change so much. She points out that Amazon’s tabbed structure, certainly up there in terms of canonical web design, isn’t even there anymore. And, I would add, neither is Paul Rand’s UPS logo

I have rarely received as much feedback about a piece as I did for Do Canonical Web Designs Exist?

In that piece, I argued that Armin Vit’s Landmark Web Sites, Where Art Thou? was wrongheaded because he was judging web design from a graphic design standpoint. In my experience people aren’t very good judges of web design…and I’m including me, you, and anybody else. Only through actual use can we come to some conclusion about how good a design is. The act of using a web site changes meaning, passion, and value.

Here are some other, similar posts worth reading.

In Defense of Graphic Design on the Web – Christopher Fahey completely disagrees with me. He sees Armin as looking for landmark “graphic design on the web” and not landmark “web design”. If that’s the case, then as I say in the comments I’ll gladly bow out of the discussion and let the graphic designers tear up th carcass. But if Armin meant landmarks of “web design” (which I think he did), then I stick to my story…

I’m not a designer, but I play one on this blog – Jen Spadafora suggests that web sites really can’t be landmarks because they change so much. She points out that Amazon’s tabbed structure, certainly up there in terms of canonical web design, isn’t even there anymore. And, I would add, neither is Paul Rand’s UPS logo

Understanding Web Design – Jeffrey Zeldman says that too many people just don’t understand web design. (He is referring to anybody involved on web projects who put anything but the user at the center of the show.) His points about award shows are particularly relevant…web award shows have always been a joke because they’ve always been run like graphic design awards. Again, I think that judging graphic design is wholly different than judging web design.

Now, let me say that I’m no graphic designer. I don’t claim to be, nor do I understand how that world works. My observations are simply that…I see some things in graphic design that are different than web design. And to Christopher’s point I’m not trying to discount graphic design. I love graphic design, and have tremendous respect for graphic designers. But let’s have a realistic vision of the role of graphic design within web design.

Published: November 20th, 2007

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