Reflecting on Aesthetics

This past month I’ve focused solely on the accessibility and usability of web design. I’ve spent a long time considering how this fits into my daily practice, for real clients and personal projects, and all the ideals, limitations and opportunities involved.

In my article Transitioning as a Web Designer I sum up a very practical evolution in the way I design and build websites on a day-to-day basis. It probably helps that I’m working on some very exciting projects at the moment. I’m feeling very positive about the next year, more so than last September when I considered hanging up my wireless Magic Mouse (metaphorically of course) to become a Google engineer or something. Like that was ever going to happen…

I’ve had another realisation today. One of the biggest challenges for a designer is educating clients that there is more to website design than making it “look good” and I consider aesthetics only 20% of the project at most.

However, we judge a book by its cover and while aesthetics may only be a small percent, it is still the gate keeper.

I should take time to reflect on my own aesthetic style.

Unlike the development side of website creation I see no need to continually transition to the newest and shiniest things. There are a lot of trends that pulsate around the online community, whether it’s glossy buttons or grainy backgrounds there’s always something popular. I prefer what I know, slowly evolving my style through considered research and exposure the the wider arts and perception of the world in general.

If you think that makes me sound like a wanker I’m sure you’d prefer to ‘read’ one of the myriad of trendy inspiration “top 50” lists on another design blog :)

I keep two words in my head when I design. They are simplicity and focus. I’ll avoid the word “minimalism” because that upsets people but you get the point – I don’t really do grunge, DIY or anything heavily stylised. That’s not to say I don’t like those styles but they’re just not me. I like light colours and a clarity of content. I’ve written about The Visual Hierarchy and that applies strongly to my approach, especially with typography.

I challenge every graphical element that I add. What value does it have? What purpose does it serve? If I can’t justify an element with several different reasons I won’t have it. White space is my best friend. It’s funny how often clients want to fill up every available area with as much content as possible, and more! The old maxim “less is more” is true in every walk of life, especially web design.

So that is how I would describe my style. Well, inadequately for the most part. It’s a difficult subject to interpret. After re-reading my 2009 article Inspiration Archives I still feel the idea of a lifetime progression holds true. Your design style is your life.

Now that I think about it, I’m way overdue for a gallery or museum visit!


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