While I refrain myself from getting into discussions about something that somebody else said, the last article by Cameron Chapman in SmashingMagazine made me think. Ok, it got me angry because of the dangerous pretentious of the article: considering graphic design irrelevant and worst of all, unnecessary. After reading something I find so shallow and biased, I decided to write a response to it.
Let’s jump right into the article that lead me to write this. Cameron wrote an article titled “Does the future of the internet have room for web designers?” where she is ready to dismiss design from the internet. Content is king! behold Craigslist, the father and mother of design-less internet!
First she states that “Content is king and design is becoming less relevant – we’re already seeing this with mobile themes”. Let’s take a look at something that is even more detached from internet than mobile themes, client apps. Take a look at the design of these three apps for Twitter: Tweetie, twidroyd, Snaptu. Each one has their own design, which is very important, since they give better lecturability, an intuitive interface and a good interaction experience. None of this is possible without graphic design. Now, it’s equally important for a theme to have a good design that entices you to read, to follow, to consume. And I’m not even talking about the brand, that is one thing that could never be neglected, as different companies need to differentiate from the rest in everything, and design provides a valuable differentiation.
Another point in her article is that “It is not just apps that reduce the need to visit a website”, where she approaches the most important provider of content of all times: Television. Isn’t television all about content? then why isn’t it a mere white background screen with black Helvetica displaying coming shows? why does Dexter or The Big Bang Theory have design on their openings? what a sin against the lord of content! Even more, the most content focused element of tv are news shows, and are they black letters against a white background? they could be uh? after all newspapers are. No! they have graphic design, each segment in a news show is carefully designed to offer the tv watcher a quick overlook about the topic being covered. You can surely expect apps for Google TV boasting an awesome design.
I find the block about “Content Will Be Funneled Through a Handful of Sources” being the shallowest in the article. Let’s just repeat that your site is much more valuable than your Facebook page. Facebook tries to leverage all the internet under a blue umbrella but your brand is much more important. No important brand would lose its value against Facebook. Can you imagine Phil Knight from Nike bending his knee before Facebook? In this sense, Google is better for your business since it’s a jump spot and not a destination.
On the other three topics about function over form and technical advantages, let’s just say that people sees form as equally important as function. Why Ford lose against General Motors? because Ford believed in the form follows function so strictly that thought that a single model could fit all kinds of people. You surely remember the old quote by Henry Ford
Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.
People have a desire to identify itself as a unique person, with unique possessions and interests. Why aren’t the products still manufactured like they were designed in the Braun golden age? they were the sublimated form, following function in every facet. Yet, people doesn’t want to be the same. Do you want everything your neighbour has? the same t-shirt, the same car, the same shoes? I bet you don’t, and that’s we need to be unique. And brands are like people. They need to be unique. They need design. They need you as a web designer.
Don’t worry designer, there’s a huge place for you in the future of the web and the internet. Websites are not going to go away anytime soon. Apps will always need graphic design to make them usable and why not? pretty. Devices accessing web like a TV or your microwave will need a design according to the brand. And finally, brands will always be brands, and they will need your work to differentiate from the rest.