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12 Sep 2008, 6:46 pm

I wrote this as a Myspace bulletin but thought it might benefit some of you here on WP.

In one of my courses my teacher used Venn diagrams to try and easily illustrate points he wished to make. Of those illustrations the one I remember most was the following...

Image

Before we can ask what makes good design we must ask what is graphic design? Simply put graphic design is visual communication.

Graphic design is made up of three equally-important aspects.

  1. Aesthetics is what you see
  2. Content is the text you read
  3. Hierarchy is how aesthetics and content are blended together and structured in order to draw your eye to certain areas to communicate a message

When all three are present graphic designers create wonderful presentations that not only look fantastic but also convey a powerful message. Apple's iTunes, for example, is a example of design that contains equal amounts of aesthetics, message, and hierarchy.

As a professional web designer one of the challenges I face daily is to design a website in which the client either has not supplied content, or they supply too much and I get lost in their industry speak. As the old adage goes, "I can't see the tree from the forest" and on the flip-side "I can't see the forest from the tree." I am simply lost. The client feels it is more important to design something first then throw in the content later. That does not work.

In order of importance content is HEART! Content drives aesthetics and hierarchy. Content not only keeps me focused on the design direction, but also keeps client revisions to a minimum.

I've learned to create blueprints for new websites, but they haven’t addressed the fundamental problem. Clients are launching projects and then not supplying useable content. Frustration doesn't even begin to describe how hard it is to design a web site when I personally don't even know what their message is. And it gets even more difficult once the client actually delivers useable content and it doesn't fit into the design (e.g. the classic round-peg-into-a-square-hole scenario).

A recent blog entry by Jeffrey Zeldman put it best, "Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it's decoration." And that, my friends, is EXACTLY how I feel.

So what's the point of this post? If you are in the process of having your website designed, or thinking about redesigning your website, from a professional web designer’s point of view I would plea with you to develop some sort of sitemap and content. This way the web designer can concentrate on the one thing they're best at... design.

If you got this far thank you for reading. I hope this was insightful. Have a great weekend!


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computerlove
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12 Sep 2008, 9:21 pm

Totally agree man, I don't even like Zeldman but this time I agree with him. I'll post a reply after I get back from dinner.
Sushi! :)


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Sand
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12 Sep 2008, 11:54 pm

The most important thing about design is function. Nature is eternally admired for its design and there is absolutely no aesthetic dynamic in nature. In some instances bad aesthetics in the extreme is highly functional in communication. The point is communication.



computerlove
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14 Sep 2008, 1:39 am

I hate that almost every single site I've done I've provided the content, content that I had to scrap from everywhere else or even worse, content that I had to write because the f***** clients don't take the time to at least give you a short text to guide you. And you're right, sometimes the message isn't in tune with the website, but I've been fortunate enough that they have made no changes, so I guess I've been lucky :)


And a tip: Don't work in something unless you have content, that way you can focus on something else, and if the clients asks you how is the project/design going, you can say "I'm still waiting for the content" :P That's a great way to have more time and avoid frustration :)
BTW I broke this rule yesterday, as I made in advance some pages for a luxury house catalog, because I know the contact is a PITA and I was sure she'll "forget" to provide the images she said she'd provide. And it happened, she forgot to provide the images, I already had the catalog done, and she made no changes :P


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One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.