Good Design + Good Relationships
Updated: Sep 9
Scrolling through the web can produce total doldrums. Do all websites have the same designer? Does it feel we are a victim of copy-cat mentality? Where are the cutting edge websites designed by artists such as the one below?
As an artist, you can't help but appreciate the layering, and breathe a sigh of relief with the in design that permeates all of the website design pictured above.
It begs to ask then, what makes good design? Is it in the eye of the beholder, as we have heard numerous times as artists? Or is it a set number of learned practices that are conjured up voodoo-like by the few who are brave enough to call themselves designers.
What is the marker of good design? It moves. The story of a successful piece of design begins with the movement of its maker while it is being made, and amplifies by its publishing, moving the work out and around. It then continues in the feeling the work stirs in the audience when they see, use, or contribute to the work, and intensifies as the audience passes it on to others. Design gains value as it moves from hand to hand; context to context; need to need. If all of this movement harmonizes, the work gains a life of its own, and turns into a shared experience that enhances life and inches the world closer to its full potential.
Good design moves people. First on the list to be moved is the creator/maker, then the viewer/client/audience. Chimero does a beautiful job of taking what we spoke about last week on Human-Centered Design, and creating a perfect visual within one paragraph of what goes into beginning good design. Chimero explains that design is a dance. He mentions that everyone has their own song, which is chosen by our upbringing and education.
Then he says something that stops me in my tracks
We each carry our own tune, and if we listen to ourselves, the song that emerges is composed of the questions we ask... the methods we choose to employ...and the bias we show...
This is key for design, for art, for creation. The quiet, the listening, the noticing. Since the dawn of time, artist/designers have relied upon observation. In this instance, one cannot help but consider Leonardo da Vinci's sketchbooks filled with drawings from his observational way of living.
Good, no, great design, is influenced by keen observation.
An education in the tenets of design is one avenue to gain the tools, the resources, and the means necessary to produce a skeleton for design, but what is additionally needed is the muscle, and skin. This comes from testing, and trying, and seeing what could be within design...by being brave, being observant, and learning.
Within the specific realm of web design, the skeleton designers work with is the content, the brand, and the goal of the website - this is handed to the designer from the company or individual requesting the work. This becomes a website refresh, rebrand, or an entirely new brand design for a client.
As an artist, you no doubt have a vision of where the website could go including some of the functionality it could offer, and how to take it there. However, if your client's work is niched, as most businesses are, then your vision may not align with the needed end result. Imagine trying to design for a scrap metal company and in your heart you are a staunch environmentalist...your ideas of how to recycle metal all the time may not jive with the scrap metal business model.
A story: when first starting to work in design and art, I worked for a short time as a mural artist. This was very short lived, as I realized quickly the work that I would be doing was mostly alone (extroverted hell) and I was subjected in each project solely to what and where the client wanted her paintings to go. I did a lot of ivy around doorframes, and a lot of ceiling paintings, lending my 20 year old back and shoulders to much pain. This was a short lived career, but it was one I learned well - the client may indeed have a lot to say about her contracted work.
Choosing Design With the Client
In the back of the mind of the designer, it is important to consider website design trends, of course, but the client and the client's needs should come into the utmost of consideration.
When working with web design, unless it is your own site, it is valuable to engage with the client. This can be done through asking a series of questions, creating a template or a wireframe and meeting with the client frequently while the project is ongoing. With the grateful inundation of UX design of late, it is vital to create time for the client to teach you about their business, and for you, as the designer to learn.
Some considerations when designing a website include:
deadlines of project
development needs vs. design needs
business owner/designer expectations
It is valuable to note that when you come into a relationship with a client, it takes at minimum a few weeks to a month to hear the voice of the client and allow it to mesh with your own. Hopefully, you will have some autonomy in design, but if you ever find that you have been asked to design a scrap metal website as an environmentalist, you have two options: let the company know that you are busy at the moment and suggest another designer or learn as much as you can from the experience. We promise that it will be worth your time.
Web Design in Tennessee with A Relational Designer We know your website is often the first thing a customer sees. Therefore, it is often the front-door to your business. With years of experience listening and designing we turn your project into one that serves your needs.