Good Design will set you free: Moment of Zen

Over a month ago i mentioned (in the site news) that i was planning to do a redesign of this website. Well 2 weeks (yah right) is quickly turning into 2 months and the top of my head is beginning to hurt from all the concepts and details that i’m trying to keep together and work into the next version of TechBlog.

Since then, i’ve created and destroyed several different attempts. Interestingly enough, many others out there seem to be facing similar challenges and reading the articles they’ve written over the last month or so has really help me begin to find my way out of this maze. So i guess the following post is going to be both a tribute to all the awesome work that has been going into describing the theoretical side of design recently, as well as a shout out to these writers to: please stop with the smarts before my brain explodes.

The first design article that got me thinking was a short post on Whitespace entitled: “What Design Means To Me“. It describes, in simple point form, a very clear and personal vision. It’s probably a good idea to have a list like this in mind before you start out any design project because it ultimately influences all other stages of the game. There are also a lot of interesting comments to read on this post, so you get a bunch of different opinions all in one place.

Some of my favorite points from the post and comments include:

  • “Design is letting down our biases and opening our minds to new ideas. “[Paul Scrivens, Whitespace]
  • “Design is finding the ultimate balance between form and functionality.” [Ryan Latham, Unmatched Style]

Feeling a little inspiration coming on, i managed to draft a few interesting ideas for TechBlog that night. The next day was also a day of letting down biases and mind openings. Then, a couple of days later i read Overdesign and just knew i had to scrap what i was doing and start all over again. It talks about the dangers of “always wanted to create the coolest websites” and i really thought i had moved passed that stage but apparently it still creeps up on me every now and again.

The main things i took away from that article were:

  • “There is always envy [in design] because someone is doing something better than you.”
  • “Make sure you do not try to reach beyond your means.”
  • “Overdesigning something involves added more when less is needed.”

The next week was tough but i managed to pull together a new design that i thought was even better than the previous draft, so i was definitely happy that i started over. There were 2 posts that helped me out along the way. The first was called, “Live Redesign in Progress” by Kartooner and i was really impressed with his intent to redesign the site while it was still online. I think he is an excellent designer so i can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. It even made me consider signing up for the next CSS Reboot, just to give myself an extra kick in the pants.

But alas, it wasn’t until i read the second article that i realized i’d hit my next major roadblock. It was an article on A lifetime supply of bravado called the “Disadvantages of WordPress” and when i read it, i could swear i heard bells going off in the distance or something. by that, i mean Bill had somehow gotten into my head. I commented briefly on his site, and we agreed that it would be great to be able to hide the WordPress template tags through some sort of third party script (firefox plugin, greasemonkey, etc.) so as to be able to get a clear view of just the xhtml/css code. It was somewhat reassuring to see that i wasn’t the only one that was having trouble redesigning my WordPress-based site.

A couple more days went by and frustration had really set in. i had stared, and tweaked and walked away and started again. I was dizzy with design when i read another 2 articles that came out on the same day. “Elements of Web Design: The Message” again on Whitespace, and “Redesign Phase 2 – Information Architecture” on YourTotalSite. Both were perfect examples of how good, solid planning could have helped me avoid some annoying design pitfalls.

Points that stood out for me on this Whitespace article were:

  • “The message that your design gives will resonate through the minds of your users.”
  • “If your design supercedes your message and hides it, then the design has failed.”
  • “Now that I think about it, I probably never created a site I totally liked.”
  • “Once you lose track of the message that you are trying to deliver you lose track of the design.”

The article on YourTotalSite gives a more technical approach to the design process and i actually went back and read the preceding article, “Redesign Phase 1 – Getting Our Act Together” which i thought was even better. The 2-part series covers interesting topics in design like: Page Description Diagrams, Wireframes, Brainstorming, Prioritizing, and more. The stuff about Page Description Diagrams and Prioritizing seemed particularly relevant to my situation and i thought i needed to work on those types of things a little bit more.

Five days later, i came across yet another great design article on Whitespace [my new favorite site] called, “Design Sacrifices“. It seemed to pick up right where YourTotalSite left off. The sacrifices that needed to be made, the ones i had been avoiding.. the whole thing was very similar to the prioritizing that i found interesting a couple days earlier. i was left haunted by the words, “play the everyman role. You have to be the expert of all the elements that form to make your site.”

Then came the straw that broke the camel’s back. And by camel i mean me.

The Myth of Perfect Web Design” by D. Keith Robinson was originally written on August 4th, 2003. But it couldn’t be more significant in today’s climate of redesign madness. The rules are all being rewritten before our very eyes, and it is sheer genius for him to have reposted this article the other day in this current context. A testament to the power of truly good writing. Anyway, it seemed to lift me up a little because it appeared to confirm earlier statements regarding overdesign (and trying to be the coolest), prioritizing (choose your battles), and sacrifices (in design). i especially liked the comment made by Nollind Whachell, which in my mind, perfectly characterizes the Myth article. Simply put, “Perfect equals rigid”. so true. check out Nollind’s site, if you get a chance, i know i’ll be keeping an eye on it because it sounds like he’s going through a redesign of his own.

There were probably other articles i’ve read over the last couple of weeks that i could have mentioned here, but i thought these particular posts dealt with broad theoretical topics in design that might serve as a solid foundation for anyone out there trying to cope with similar issues. Plus, this way there’s less chance of me forgetting all this in about six months.

Things i’m slowly beginning to realize (thanks to these guys):

  • design is tough. very good design is even tougher. perfect design is a myth.
  • find the message and the design will follow. free your mind and the rest will follow.
  • balance one goal against another. or at the very least, have a list of goals

maybe i just need to read less, and design more..

[ If you found this article interesting, you might also like the other one i wrote along the way entitled: "Approaching Design: Process for Perspective". ]

Comments 2

  1. ig wrote:

    Having read this I thought it was rather informative.

    I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this article together.
    I once again find myself personally spending
    way too much time both reading and commenting. But so
    what, it was still worthwhile!

    Posted 24 Feb 2017 at 3:15 pm
  2. tstsyayts wrote:

    check my site

    Posted 01 Sep 2017 at 10:09 am

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  1. From Perfect Equals Rigid | Nollind Whachell on 04 Oct 2014 at 11:37 pm

    [...] great way to find new and interesting people), I came across an article by Elran Oded entitled Good Design Will Set You Free: Moment of Zen that I actually had read a long time ago. Why I was glad I found it again though was because Elran [...]

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