Design, Trust and Limited Creativity Bookmark

In this reply to my previous article Tom writes:

“From the early/mid 90's, I gradually shifted from magazine and print layout, from illustration to html, css and programming. I dived deeper and deeper into what makes the web tick, and after more than twenty years in the front-line of conceptualizing, designing, building, and maintaining web sites I think I have a pretty broad AND deep understanding of the cogs and wheels involved.”

This is something that I often think about. The web has changed a lot, but with the amount of things that we have learned over twenty years of working on the web, provides a very solid understanding of many aspects and areas.

“Every time I create something for the web, I have the feeling it is kind of dull. It works, it is lean. It is maintainable, scalable.”

Gaining technical understanding and mastering techniques, is a great skill, but somewhat limited. That’s give and take, because you can put things together in new ways, but it’s still limited. At some point you do know the spec and know how you can use it. The constraint is the technology, but you can put it together in different ways. Yet, the “putting it together” part is creativity.

Creativity has no bounds. You will never be able to fully master it, because there is no limit. You can take it anywhere you want, anytime. There is nothing to master. You can only get better, everytime you try to do so.

[…] is it really that I'm not "allowed" the creative freedom in the bread-and-butter jobs or is it that I think that the truly creative ideas would be wasted anyway on these clients?

It’s probably about trying harder in the first place. Nowadays there’s a certain set of expectations anchored in people’s minds and that might be due to the “free economy” of the web. It’s easy to choose a free template and go with a default design. Why not, it’s free!
Usually there’s a price to pay, even when it’s free. Part of that price is the sameness that’s attached to it, a lack of creativity. It’s easy possible to learn to build a website and create some boxes that looks just like others.

People operate by confirmation of the masses. When most people use a theme that’s free, they likely use a theme that looks the same as many others. When enough people use those themes, in a way this look becomes a de facto standard. The “design” is well known and because of that, it’s trusted. It has to work. Why else would everybody use it?

In a way, we can all blame frameworks. It’s been a great idea and has allowed many people to create and run websites. To learn and practice. It’s made the web a little more accessible to people who might have never had a chance to build a website otherwise. Yet, those frameworks have allowed their sameness to creep in, default designs to be seen for how websites “should” look like today. Even though frameworks were only meant for prototyping and as a starting point to build upon, they have made their mark in terms of design. With a lack of understanding of the craft and its underlying techniques, it’s difficult to change and modify the defaults, to be creative and unique.

And why change in the first place, it’s what everybody uses. It’s tested. It’s trusted. It’s confirmed.
How could the masses be so wrong?

In order to be able to do more creative work, we have to start by being more creative.