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Weblog Entry

Template Design

August 19, 2005

Does design exist in a template-driven world?

Design-in-Flight is back in an all-new weblog format. The most recent feature article asks about the commodity of content, and what this means for design.

This is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately. In an age of content management systems and blog tools, RSS and MP3, content which was once a complete package with other physical properties has now become a bunch of impersonal 1’s and 0’s.

Sure, mass aggregating is great if you view content as a consumer, looking to filter the wheat from the chaff. It’s progress, baby. But as I’m sure has been waxed nostalgic by others far more eloquent, there’s something lost when dissociating content from any context. You just don’t get attached to a post sitting in Bloglines the same way you once might have clipped a newspaper article and hung it on your fridge. You don’t flip through the liner notes of an album bought on the iTunes music store, the same way you would have if you had bought it on vinyl, cassette, or CD.

Particularly relevant to my own work is the question of content design vs. templating. The article leaves a dangling question: if content is this ethereal and interchangeable, what’s the designer’s role? An answer was briefly touched on with the mention of Apple’s Widgets: styling, but not defining.

How many of us are noticing an increase in requests to design ‘templates’ for general content, but not custom-design specific content? I sure have. A lot of requested work these days assumes this as a baseline; when dealing with a CMS or a dynamic application, you don’t get the content in advance (if it even exists yet), so it’s ultimately irrelevant to the design. The goal ends up being the creation of a flexible, one-size-fits-all construction.

Is this design though? In the sense that you’re being asked to solve a specific visual problem, yes. In the sense that you have full control over the rendering of the output, anyone designing for the web has been getting used to the idea of giving up control for years now. This is just one more step along that path.

So that reduces the designer to one who can make a bit of code look nice. And to a lot of clients, that’s about all there is to it. I’m sure we’ve all had our share of the “shut up and color” type, who don’t hire us beyond making sure their ugly site or application is not quite as ugly.

I’d like to think there’s more to what we do than simple aesthetics, though. Lately there has been a lot more focus on Design in business and other realms than traditionally warranted. Design, that is, in the sense of it being strategic planning and problem solving of systems, interfaces, and products, which is a much broader definition than visual design.

And that’s how I find my own interests shifting, too. I got into this game with no more than an image editor and the pixels to back it up, but lately my focus has been much wider. I’m reading up on databases and server-side scripting. I’m brushing up on my Unix and tweaking the web server I have running on my local machine. I’m deep in a Lou Rosenfeld book and my copy of OmniGraffle is being opened a lot more these days.

Not that I expect to rush out and start billing as a programmer or database administrator, mind you, but the exposure to these other disciplines is really helping me clarify what it is that I do, and how that fits into the complex ecosystem of talent on the web. My view of design is changing from simply making a user interface look great, to making a great user interface, and all the details that go into it. That demands a heck of a lot more than a few well-placed pixels.

So while templating is here to stay, it doesn’t at all mean that demand for design talent is going away. Consider that the type of content that lends itself to a template is generally the type of content that probably shouldn’t be custom-designed anyway; just as newspapers and magazines have general layouts and style guides, so too do dynamic web sites. Rapid turnover of content demands as little production as possible. More production is always nice, but it’s not a necessity.

And it’s highly likely that blogs and other systems that allow the average user to manage content have increased the interest in templates as well; since CSS offers the ability to use a common markup base and radically alter the look, it’s easy to implement them. You could potentially make a career out of designing generalized blog templates, whereas five years ago there was no demand. But that’s a brand new niche, it doesn’t replace traditional design.

That’s the point, I think — we’re not looking at a commoditization of design talent, we’re looking at an expanded market. Given the higher level of interest in design in general, the field is getting wider, and there are now simply more options.


August 19, 02h

Interesting. This is somethign I’ve been thinking about recently, albeit in a different light.

I’m one of the designers making a living designing templates. It’s not all I do, but it’s becoming a larger part of my income stream every day. In most cases, I don’t have the content to design from, but I do have the client to design FOR. I see my role as interpreter of the client’s online intent, role, and personality. I set the tone for what follows, in other words.

Of course, this only works if I have a sense of who the client is.

I’ve recently been asked to design a number of templates for a hosted blog service. In this case, I have no idea who the end user will be. My role here is quite different.

I’m not designing in this case. I’m decorating. It’s a totally different concept. It’s a valid task. But it’s not what I would call design.

I don’t want to sound disparaging - I appreciate good decor, and appreciate its challenges. But its a different task to decorate than it is to design.

August 19, 04h

I agree with you that much design work these days is progressing toward template-based designs. Afterall, a site looking to grow from 0 to 10,000 pages in a year likely wouldn’t want to design each and every page, but instead use a small handful of templates to style the pages.

In my experience, most clients continue to want their index.* to be as individual as possible so they’re willing to invest a fair amount of money just on that single page. After that, they’ll ask for a few additional templates designed specifically for the page types they’re expecting, one general template, and then call two or three months down the road to request templates for often-used page types they had not expected.

August 19, 05h

Design is not the business of creative self-expression (i.e. art), it is the business of creatively solving problems (i.e. it’s artistic).

Great web design (be it templates or not) is not just about making things look pretty. It is about motivating people to action, enabling them to complete tasks, and meeting the needs and expectations of clients and consumers alike. In order words it is still governed by the truism “form follows function”.

Web design is challenging because it has so many variables that are outside the designers control. Templates adds one more of those to the mix: the content.

Naturally this makes some designers nervous, but it shouldn’t. It opens up opportunities that require a lot of creativity (preferably grounded in research ;-): How can I meet the potential content needs now?

beto says:
August 19, 07h

Dave, you get a lot of interesting points here. These days I’m finding myself creating more templates than anything else, since that is what sells now. Even so, there are a lot of usability and ergonomic variables to consider in template design - which, let’s admit it, don’t have much to do with the concept of “design as art”, which is something many people in the field do, and for me that is missing the forest for the trees.

I come from a graphic design background but since I started on this almost ten years ago, I developed an interest on mastering the nuts and bolts of web design i.e, learning to code HTML, become proficient in Javascript, and know how to solve common server issues (back in ‘97 you HAD to know your code, or else). That allowed me to take a global approach to web design, and that’s something you and I can relate to. Unfortunately, if my experience is any indication, designers who are both comfortable using both right and left sides of their brain are few and far between, which more often than not is the main cause for misunderstandings and frustrations on a given project, IMHO.

Templates aren’t certainly the most motivating design work out there, but we can look at the bright side - custom design work will become much more valuable, and clients who want to stand out of the crowd will be willing to pay extra for it (and with lots of reason!)

August 19, 09h

I think it’s downright insulting to the designers who have created brilliant templates for sites to say that they’ve “been reduced to” anything.

Designing flexible, attractive, elegant templates that can hold any (semantically correct) html and make it look nice is the greatest skill a web designer could possibly have.

Of course, this is really pushing along the ultimate destiny of web designers: you will no longer be creating static, pixel-perfect PSDs and handing them to programmers with the only instructions being “make it look like this”, but rather you will actually be drawing up the html and css templates (along with images and such) that will be plugged into the CMS or whatnot that the programmer has crafted.

Yes, this means that designers are going to need different skills from what most of them are focusing on right now. The good ones will excel, the bad ones will choke.

This falls in line with one of my favorite sayings about web design:

Every web site looks perfect in photoshop.

The web is *not* a print media, despite being mostly text based. Users can resize their fonts, disable colors and images, and you can’t do anything about it. The goal is no longer to just create sites that look great, but sites that look great and are TRULY designed for the web. The vast majority of web sites out there right now are NOT designed for the web; they’re designed for print.

Contrary to popular belief, designing is extremely similiar to programming. Both require technical skill as well as creativity. Neither can be done well by talent-less individuals, and mediocre people produce crappy results with either. Neither is a pure art, nor are they pure sciences.

My suggestion? Start by stopping. Stop designing your sites in photoshop. Stop thinking about pixel-perfect. Draw up the necessary html & css to make a site work. Only use image manipulation software for images.

Oh, and actually sit down and talk to the programmers every now and again. You’ll discover that you both have the same goals, you just don’t realize it yet.

August 19, 10h

Dave,

I generally agree with what you have to say. However, I believe pretty strongly that templating is still design. To me, one of the core differences between design and fine art is the fact that we, as designers, work within restrictions. Whereas artists can littleraly do just about anything they want for the sake of art, our job is to create solutions that work effectively to solve a particular problem. In this case, the problem is that we don’t have the content before hand, and yet we need to be able to publish that content as soon as we get it in a simple fashion. Designing a template is an effective solution – although perhaps not the only one.

In closing, I too am concerned about what this all means for aesthetic visual design, and I loved that DiF article. But in the end, our job is to solve problems and communicate with people, not make things pretty.

Dave S. says:
August 19, 11h

Jeff - from the article: “Is this design though? In the sense that you’re being asked to solve a specific visual problem, yes.”

I went on from there, but I’m not trying to claim template design isn’t design.

August 19, 11h

Well dang. I guess that’s what I get for skimming the article instead of reading it throughly. :)

Sorry ‘bout that.

9
Su says:
August 19, 11h

I have a couple questions: How (much?) are you defining “template” here? Also, would you say this is more the fault of templating as a concept in itself, or of the people making the templates? It’s going to be extremely rare that a site will need special tailoring to go into every page, or even that many of them, so I wonder if the issue needs to be a bit more specifically defined as maybe overly reductive templating.

Let’s use blogs, for probably the easiest example: There are (many, many) sites which essentially have a single template serving the entire thing. All that ever changes is the bit of content that appears in the main column. Otherwise, the header, sidebar, footer, everything else, is completely static. Yes, this is templated, but more importantly, it’s LAZY.

Then let’s look at this site. If you start poking around, there’s actually a good amount of variation, where needed, to accomodate the goals of that particular class of page. It’s still obviously template-based, but there are /more/ templates:
1) The home page has one appearance.
2) If you click through to an individual entry, the red section nav takes on a compacted form, the entry title is larger, the date is in a different format, there is no sidebar, and the entry blurb is also reformatted.
3) If you follow through to the comments, we necessarily have different formatting for the main content, but there’s also now a sidebar, different from the homepage one
4) The sidebars for the monthly and category archives, and RSS page are again different, each

None of those variances represents a monumental effort; they’re not outside the range of anybody putting a site together, even with a fairly limited CMS. The important factor is that the effort was even taken to consider those page types as needing to be different from any given other one. I think that there’s a definite correlation in most people’s minds that templating directly leads to limitation. It does in one sense, but really only to the degree that you let it.

Dan Dean says:
August 19, 12h

Jeff: “Whereas artists can littleraly do just about anything they want for the sake of art, our job is to create solutions that work effectively to solve a particular problem.”

I think this distinction is utterly false. GOOD art functions the same as GOOD design in that it conveys fairly specific ideas and effectually communicates with the viewer. It is also the job of the artist to “work effectively and solve a particular problem; ‘design’ has no monopoly on this.

Art for the sake of art is as bland, uninteresting, and unsuccessful as design for the sake of design.

As for templating, the challenge itself is a wonderful one that can bring out the best in a designer.

11
Jo says:
August 19, 12h

Webdesign is a visual artform - deploying a user interface to display bits of contents in an attractive design that support the view and representation of that website.

Template design has increased inmensely its popularity due to the hype around BLOGS (a term, people often use). People are not all well-crafted designers and are in need of templates, which WE can offer. Personally, I dont mind all these ugly sites on the web, if people put their hearts in it, I welcome their efforts and respect their time put in it. Templates can start to lookalike, but copycats are many, where as original ‘in the face’ design is not easy to find all the time.

12
Jo says:
August 19, 12h

“As for templating, the challenge itself is a wonderful one that can bring out the best in a designer.”

Don forget projects with a dead-line can put a hold on creativity. Time can be essential to bring out even more out of a designers’ talents. But after doing some work, you learn to do better next time.

13
Jo says:
August 20, 02h

“Templates aren’t certainly the most motivating design work out there, but we can look at the bright side - custom design work will become much more valuable, and clients who want to stand out of the crowd will be willing to pay extra for it (and with lots of reason!)”

Creating templates for a website = still a creative process that involves graphic talent,etc. … The only thing is you are constrained to designing the template which means the templates need to stand out even more so it would stand in the overall look of every section of the website.


Plus every website should stand out even if you are not payed extra for it, a template design is not less worthy than any other design job.

Only backdraw is that clients would pay less for the design work , but the programming work will remain the same because database design, CMS, forms, etc. … are not subject to any template design.

Only one could charge less hours for design working hours (which could be well-compensated if you do the programming as well (eg javascript, cgi, server-side configs, etc. …).

pk says:
August 20, 07h

“Plus every website should stand out even if you are not payed extra for it, a template design is not less worthy than any other design job.”

from a business perspective, that’s wildly optimistic. a templated site takes the same amount of time to design as a non-templated site. sometimes it may longer, since templating needs to be bulletproof against future content.

the problem is that most people who want templates don’t want to *pay* for them. $100 is a lot of money to a general consumer-level customer; i’ve found very few are willing to consider design being worth more than that (and frankly, any job below the $2500 mark is, to most designers, not really worth the trouble). and if that’s true, designers would have to work pretty much night and day to make ends meet.

Pat says:
August 20, 09h

I think it can be said that the more connected the world becomes, the more we lose that which makes us individuals.

@Peter Flaschner
I like the distinction between design and decoration - I had superficially thought of it, but never saw it put so well.

@Dan Dean
I disagree with everything you said.

I come from a fine art background - you know, one of those “art for art’s sake” guys, who does bland, uninteresting work that apparently pales in humanity, passion, and intellectual rigor to a nice-looking website or a magazine advertisement.[/sarcasm]

The best distinction I’ve come up with for our modern situation is that art - “fine art” - is done for its own sake and the rest - design, illustration, etc. - are “commercial arts”.

In the past, I’ve been berated for suggesting that somehow commercial artists might not be creating art in the sense that fine artists do. It’s like they’re desperate to prove that Milton Glaser is somehow on the same level as Pablo Picasso - or that the two can even be compared.

Personally, I’d never hang a logo on my wall - but Guernica can go up there any day.

All I’m saying, in a long-winded manner is that there was a reason that “History of Design” and “Art History” were two different courses in college.

Again, I’m not insulting commercial art - I’m just saying it’s a completely different animal than fine art.

srem says:
August 20, 12h

how to create a good photo-gallery?

in css/xhtml

4 x n
or
3 x n

pictures
no tables, with a hover description
with basic short [js] name, a hover more text


sorry for bad chaotical english ;) …

17
Jo says:
August 21, 02h

“The best distinction I’ve come up with for our modern situation is that art - “fine art” - is done for its own sake and the rest - design, illustration, etc. - are “commercial arts”.”

I do see where you are coming from - but it all depends on the person and- or the educational background. In Belgium, Europe eg, graphic designers learn some flash and basic webdesign skills but some of them (the best of every year) have illustrative skills beyond any poetic state of the art. To sum it up, illustration art or webdesign art for that matter can stand out.

The only problem is that marketing and publicity standards often dont meet any standards which can be defined as fine art: an extra dimension put in it, a poetic value …

Commercial art is not per definition to sell only that product, eg a webdesigner can make a website for eg a big company (and still be upmost creative and artistic). Just take a look at all the galleries that dont particular always have state of the art expositions there. Lots of skilled artists make works to sell and often are trapped in their own shortcomings and copy the worst examples ever. It is also a matter of taste, of course. There is only good art and bad art.

Ian Brown says:
August 21, 03h

I’m in two minds here. Although templating for CMS’s is certainly restrictive, too restrictive in most cases, it’s still design. But to create something that’s purely for one item of content, or a classic .html website, it’s something else completely. There are a lot less restrictions with the latter art form. Yes, art form. Web design is an art just as an unmade bed is art. It’s modern, it’s new and it’s different.

However, we have the standards we need to work to and for. Maybe I work too much within the realms of a template, but it’s harder to become a true designer with a CMS. Design should be uncompromised, but with a CMS it has to be. Whereas it’s a lot freer with a simple item of content. Free to a point which feels almost new, as it’s rare.

Ah, I’m just ranting now. So sum up before a talk forever. They are both design, but templating is less, as you’re working within more restrictions than a standard, non CMSed work space.

August 21, 06h

“I’m not designing in this case. I’m decorating. It’s a totally different concept. It’s a valid task. But it’s not what I would call design.”

I think Peter’s post about the difference between decoration and design is very important. It plays out particularly with regard to templating with the work at hand - Design in Flight. Andy created a very unique and beautifully designed PDF every few months that was specifically made to be sold to designers and those interested in the issues of professional design. DiF was not a template, save for the fact that it had a standard letter-size format. To keep the publication alive, DiF is now HTML-formatted (and free), which is not a bad thing at all. But it IS based on a (very nice) template design and that, as a designer, is troubling.

I wonder if speed, efficiency, and costs are now driving more design decisions than we think and if, therefore, templating will be the only way to offset those vectors.

20
Scott Marshall says:
August 21, 07h

What I’ve been trying to wrap my head around lately is how to take this to the next level with automating print production.

With InDesign being able to import XML files and assign a print style sheet to the content, PDF servers being able to output forms from dynamitic content, and the innovation of semantic content, I think there are definite possibilities to create a CMS for print production.

As the only in-house designer for college in Nova Scotia, there is are a lot of things I would love to see automated to make my life easier. In the three years that I’ve been at my jobs, I’ve done over 1500 ads for the local papers across the province. A good number of these ads are the same ad, but run in different papers with different column sizes. A one click solution would be great.

However, I know there will never be a once click solution. A designer will always have to proof the artwork and make adjustments. There may be one word hanging at the bottom of a paragraph in an ad. With some adjustments to the tracking of the paragraph, the lonely word can join the rest of his cousins in a nicely formed paragraph. That one word could cost as much as five extra dollars. Multiply that by the 500 or so ads done in a year, and you get an extra project out of the yearly budget.

This system would not be for custom one off projects, such as an Annual Report or Student Recruitment materials, but more for the basic business documents. More of an automated Graphic Standards manual for large businesses rather than a tool for a small design shop.

I know in theory, that it technologically possible to build such a system. What I don’t know is how this affects the role of the designer, either our internal view of what we do or how our “clients” view what we do. What happens to the designer building this complex tool or the designer who is using the tool to generate production files? And other questions that keep me up at night wondering if I have a good thesis idea for a Masters in Design.

August 21, 11h

Being a programmer with limited design skills I don’t know if you include branding in your design work. It’s not enough to just design a generic template for a customer. You must also project a visual feel to the consumer of the site. The site must be instantly recognizable as the company’s site.

You are a very important part of the marketing of the company.

22
Micro-Wave says:
August 22, 01h

“You must also project a visual feel to the consumer of the site. The site must be instantly recognizable as the company’s site.”

It is merely obvious that (eg the header: top, bottom, where ever) a logo (text-based, image only, text + image) is part of the template or website which reflects what it stands for. But making eg a good logo is brand design, a art of its own. Just like making a descent website. And not all sites are corporate, thank you.

The visual feel of the website depends on what site it is basically. If we have our corporate business site, marketing and publicity techniques will infest the design.

It depends on the job, sometimes a new logo is needed, or an exisiting logo needs to be adapted to a webformat [vector-based (eg flash), jpeg, png, etc. …) and other times an existing logo is given (as is) to use for the website or template (whatever).

23
Mike Nizinski says:
August 22, 05h

This is quite possibly the best thing I have read this year. For so long I have been trying to quantify what I do as a web designer. Where, not so long ago, there was a definitive split between what is design and what is programming - more and more that line is blurring. Web design is far more expansive then traditional design, as I feel that web designers, like you mentioned, are no longer tasked with “…simply making a user interface look great, to making a great user interface…” Much like a print designer should know how ink will print on a page, and how to avoid trapping issues - to be a good web designer, is to know not only how to make an interface look good, but how to make it functional as well.

August 23, 01h

Dave,

“You could potentially make a career out of designing generalized blog templates, whereas five years ago there was no demand.”

Not entirely true. Right now, there’s demand for designers for blog templates, but 5 years ago there was demand for designers for forum software templates. This involved little more than being able to create something that was shiny and pretty and having enough skill to tweak a 5-levels-of-nested-tables mess of HTML templates, but the point remains that there has been demand for “template designers” for years already. It’s just a new control system these days, as blogs are completely taking over forums on the web.

Other than that, it was a great article, very thought-provoking and definitely something that’s been on my mind quite a lot, the past two years (which were spent writing a standards-based CMS for business level applications, utilizing a CSS Zen Garden-like template for great design convenience).

August 24, 05h

Design serves the purpose of branding too. If design is under the category of templates, then branding of a website becomes difficult to achieve.

Andy Kant says:
August 24, 06h

I’ve seen some comments I agree with, specifically the difference between design and decoration mentioned by Peter is about as perfect of an explanation as I could imagine. The word “design” is so overused that people seem to confuse themselves simply over the different meanings of the word rather than using it in its actual context. People seem to be confusing “graphics designer” (the decorators) with “web designer” (the design + decorators). The title of web designer has become a new job entirely, and requires a new skill set. This, in my eyes, includes the ability to: Create eye-catching graphical designs, create intelligent user interfaces, be proficient in efficient structuring of XHTML/CSS, and also be able to write JavaScript for visual purposes.

I might be a bit biased though; this is not from a graphic designer’s perspective. This is as a software engineer who is extremely proficient in software design, XHTML, CSS, JS, and with reasonable graphics abilities. I hire *web* designers to save me time so that I can focus on the application, not give me more work to do by having to splice up their PSD image and change it into an efficient and well structured XHTML/CSS design. Well, I can’t say I never use graphic designers who can only make graphics, because I find designing XHTML/CSS structures to be alot of fun. I think designing a CSS stylesheet could even be considered an art in itself. ;-)

27
Micro-Wave says:
August 24, 09h

“This involved little more than being able to create something that was shiny and pretty and having enough skill to tweak a 5-levels-of-nested-tables mess of HTML templates, but the point remains that there has been demand for “template designers” for years already.”

For instance, online webshops shipped with eg a Javascript template, several frames. The ugliest design ever seen, and then redesign it. (anno 2001)

28
Andrew Banks says:
August 24, 11h

What’s that quote that goes, “Design is principles applied to content,” or something like that?

29
Micro-Wave says:
August 25, 03h

“I’ve seen some comments I agree with, specifically the difference between design and decoration mentioned by Peter is about as perfect of an explanation as I could imagine.”

Instead of decorative, one could also use ‘illustrative’ or interior ‘design’, adding textures and feels, plus also the grids and positioning are much lent from print design (magazines, newspapers, etc. …) It is not like decorating a christmass-tree, it goes beyond that.

August 28, 04h

I agree, that templating seems to be where things are heading, for better or worse I do not know. I recently had a request to do 80 blog designs, and they were to be done fairly quickly. I did my best to explain that this isn’t really what I do, ie: quality vs. quantity. I touched on this a bit more in the To-Done article I wrote on avoiding burnout. The basic premise was not to take on clients with no message, or don’t do designs for empty sites.

Yet, to revisit your point, is design that is mass-produced still design? I would say no, but I do think it is possible to craft a site template around a concept, even if the content does not yet exist. An example would be a corporate blog, that will have a specific, managed focus, but has no content because the company is waiting on a respectable front-end.

Peter Flaschner is sort of taking this mode of thinking and design in a new direction with his start-up The Blog Studio, and I’m interested to see how that develops.

August 30, 05h

As website owners increasingly take advantage of content management systems to publish content themselves, the more that websites become like newspapers and magazines.

Of course the web user can click links, so there’s navigation to think about, and the font size can be increased by the user, so to that extent a web page is more complex than the page of a newspaper. And the underlying technology is obviously not the same. But the comparison becomes increasingly compelling with each free, one-click install CMS that comes along.

I believe newspaper and magazine designers would argue that they are fully-fledged and creative designers in their medium. I think web publishers are always wise to study the work of for-print designers, and I think there will always be huge scope for the skillful design of web-based content because even though alternative devices to a good computer screen are more widely used, the computer screen remains the primary canvas.

August 31, 04h

Designing a framework for content seems natural to me, coming from the world of print.

While certainly more complex, a web template seems very much like the ‘master page’ in a print design program. The larger the print project, the more likely the designer is to use styles and master pages.

That’s why css and web templates make sense to me. The focus on them may seem new to you, but it seems more like a maturing of tools to me.

I’m now working on a large (several hundred page) redesign, using web standards in a dynamic site. We’ve developed a system where, mostly using one template and includes, the correct sectiontitle, banner image, navigation and subnavigation are applied to each page, depending on where the page is, in which directory/subdirectory.

Simplifies the site for the client. Still lots of work for the team. Couldn’t have been done without the concept of templating.

Dan Dean says:
August 31, 12h

@Pat, post #16:
You seem to have completely misunderstood my post. What I’m saying is that Art (with a captial A) is as commercial of a product as design, and is subject to the same intellectual standards as design (I’m NOT saying that they serve the same purpose, but that there has to be intelligent idea behind the decoration, not just a mass of decoration). In order for good art to be successful it must critically engage the viewer.

And btw, I also come from a “fine art” background. You’re putting words in my mouth that I didn’t suggest, and seem to be ranting about crotchety designer snobbery, not against what I was talking about.

wallace says:
September 05, 04h

(slightly off topic but related to CSS layout non-the-less)

If anyone is using CSS to layout forms (long forms spanning a couple of pages with floating inputs beside their captions) have you found a way to make these floated divs printable?

True it prints OK in IE.. but not FireFox.. and noone seems to be discussing this too much.

I have tried wrapping the entire form in a table, setting the forms height to 100%, bottom:0px .. seems like the only solution anyone has is ‘remove the floats’ which then make the form layout look rediculous when printed.

All thoughts, comments, suggestions, links and solutions are greatfully accepted.

(maybe I ask too much?)

Panta says:
September 18, 01h

Personally I started with art as a passion, CG was for me a way to freely express but then i grew up and needed a job like almost everybody. I started working as a graphic designer and agree with the disticntion between fine Art and decoration. I have always been very convinced about this distinction.

First: I think that what you make for living, what you make because people that pay you for doing this, asked/ordered you to do, cannot be considered art. I think Art is the need to express something, not necessarly to communicate to other people… just fix a particular feeling on a canvas or a bunch of pixels, pen scratches etc.

Commercial art is usually part of the marketing process (eg: “No, we don’t like this because space monkeys was last year trend… this year we are going into pixel font and nerd ninjias”) and marketing is far from Art and feelings (even if it tries to use them). I’m from italy and in italian the word “markette” is generally used for “pronstitution” and in bad moments when i’m down with my work sometimes i think is what we are… bent to the client sometimes absurd request to have our income.

But after almost eight years in this job I realized this is normal and this is how every work goes… You do what they tell you, and you get payed. Easy.

So I think a work cannot ever be Art. Art is not done for money, art is for spirit.

However of course in this job you need to have some artistic sensitivity, you cannot be a graphic designer without knowing how to place two colours togheter to get different sensations. And so i think template designing or unique designing is about the same thing graphically speaking, but not about business and not about the code. You are a man with “artistic” (maybe “graphic” suites better) sensitivity that does his job. What could make you an artist is the fact that you get pain for this, that you suffer from the lack in expressivity.

On the other side fine artists never need to deal with many things: Restrictions, specific requests, contents (!), accessibility, usability, web optimization.

I think (web)design is a wonderful discipline as you need to know a lot of things to make them work well. In this last years I moved too to coding related stuff, as server side, flash coding and most of all semantic markup, and css, and I’ve found in this a new way to see things that I do.

In the article you was speaking about Blogs diffusion RSS aggregation and all this technology progress as anonymous and less personal compared to 20 years ago newspapers vynils etc. but you may consider this:
we now have globalization of the informations.

We now have the human knowledge online, yes you can reach everything within 4 or 5 mouse clicks and this couldn’t be possible without some standardization and steriliziing process.
I have always been involved in both “left and right brain stuff” as beto stated and so I had, as many of you, embraced this cause. We all are part of the conversion process to make the web a useful, comfortable and accessible place.
I today make my job happy because i think I am a part of this revolution, I’m not speaking about saving the world or big stuff, but letting a single user read a page and get informations that he need in a easy way, without headache and eyes pain is for me enough to be happy with my work.
I remember 10-15 years ago when school homework was to do a research on some topic, and the “analog” way to do it… libraries and dozen of hours spent seraching books indexes to find some paraghraphs or uber-expensive encyclopedias and remember how difficult was to catch some information. Knowledge is power.

Finishing I think web is just a media, how can be the canvas, the cinema or any other stuff. You can use it for business, you can use it for Art expressivity or for divulgating informations. They are different uses for different purposes. All different, all important.

November 28, 04h

For an interesting academic discussion on the use of “design templates” and other templates, I recommend you check out Anders Fagerjords peace about “Prescripting” (his term for templates):

http://english.ttu.edu/kairos/10.1/binder2.html?coverweb/fagerjord/index.html

BTW the text itself is also an interesting example on the use of stretchtext, i.e. text that becomes longer or shorter at your wish.