Note: This was an entry I wrote two years ago so some of the items mentioned no longer apply. I really don’t do any of the designs anymore for our company (Rundle handles that), but I felt that this applied today as much as it did two years ago. There is some new stuff added and some stuff taken out.
When I started to become serious about design a couple of years ago I always wanted to create the coolest websites out there. I wanted a site that would get listed at all of those “coolest website of the day” type sites. I tried for months and years to reach that level of design that I could show everyone and have them say “WOW!”. Usually these attempts merely ended in frustration (now I am extremely lucky to have a design team that can do all the WOW stuff).
As a designer nothing is more frustating than being frustrated. It is very easy on the web to see a site that you could only dream of creating. That is part of the problem with web design. There is always envy because someone is doing something better than you. I figured I might as well give up on this whole web design thing because I just couldn’t cut it.
There was one small problem. Actually two. One I love creating websites. I love taking an idea and putting it on the screen. I also have the world’s biggest ego that does not allow me to walk away from anything. Well put those two together and I had to figure a solution to my problems.
Some of the most wonderful sites on the web only consist of a logo and text, yet they look beautiful. Looking at these sites I realized that these were the sites I could create. I admit to not being the greatest graphic designer or even a semi-good one (as this site shows), but not every site needs someone like that. I wondered why I had never come across this revelation before. Then it hit me. I was overdesigning. I was trying to go beyond my means.
Maybe you think being a web designer means you have to understand every type of design there is. I disagree. There are too many websites now that need to be built in the future to even try to understand all the different types of design let alone becoming good at all of them (and honestly with the exception of Bowman I am unaware of any designer that is able to take any brand and match it with any design without letting his/her style creep into play). Some people excel in almost all areas of design. Others are great at creating graphic collages. And still others are like me, people who really did not take an interest in design when they were growing up and maybe are more technical than creative. The point is with the web it is possible to learn great design because there are so many different kinds. You just have to make sure you do not try to reach beyond your means.
I believe what frustrated many folks about the ALA redesign is that they wanted something spectacular due to the talent behind the redesign. They wanted an overdesigned site. However, I think the site fits perfectly the goals it’s trying to achieve. In contrast, Whitespace servers its purpose as being a content site first, however it could use a bit of a refresher due to the audience it serves. In my opinion it is underdesigned (or really not designed at all).
Overdesigning something involves added more when less is needed. Tomorrow in my Being the Hype series I am going to examine Craigslist. A site many of you probably feel is greatly underdesigned, but I feel it serves its purpose perfectly. If you were going to create a Craigslist do you think you would try to overdesign it?