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QIs flat design bad?

ANo

No matter what Eli Schiff argues, it’s just a style. A reaction to what came before – the green felt abomination of Game Center, the rich Corinthian leather of Calendar, or random cartoon characters in the interface.

badargument4

This is dumb. This? Don’t do this. iOS and Android have plenty of obvious buttons. This is a deliberately bad comparison, because in the right context either is a valid button. Hell, if you don’t think colored text is occasionally viable in a user interface, I think we need to talk about this little thing called hyperlinks.

Don't do this

Actually, I think the Safari and Remote icons are just fine. It’s a question of style. Neither Game Center icon is good. Nice switcharoo on the Facebook icon, though. The actual app icon is relatively unchanged, except for the subtraction of the gloss-thing at the bottom. Also – that’s not the Instagram icon!

Wait, are we defending random cartoon characters in a clipboard UI?

Wait, are we defending gradients everywhere and random cartoon characters in a clipboard UI?

badargument3

Yes! This is a good example!

Flat design isn’t why designers are encourage to code, it’s not why prototyping is important, and it’s not why design careers have the lifespan of a mayfly.

Arguments in bad faith don’t help.

I do agree with Mr Schiff that it’s highly overblown as a design trend, and needs to be de-coupled from our perception of modern design. Everything else? Where the fuck was he when Flash was cool? I have one name: 2advanced. If you know what I’m talking about, you’re cringing inside.

If you treat a website like a problem, the first thing to ask yourself is, “Has anyone else solved this?” I’m not advocating for theft. I’m advocating for research. No one will have solved the problem of representing ‘You’ on the internet. However, you can see how other people represented themselves, how they display their work, and so on. I tend to do this in Evernote, capturing screenshots and links.

What am I looking for? I’m looking for people we tried to solve the problems I listed in Part 1, and whether they succeeded or failed. Granted, failure is relative here. For example, if I notice you’ve tried to make your personailty known through your site, you’ve probably succeeded. The failure is secondary – instead, I know to treat the subject differently.

I also like to identify trends. The one I currently like involves moving away from ‘slideshows’ and towards a ‘case study’ style of presentation. It can easily become overbearing, but I think some designers pull it off well.

I think all three of these show this to one degree or another.

Personality

Whether you’re an individual or agency, your website is how you show what makes you unique.

  • http://process.iancoyle.com/ – shows the personality through content, but navigation suffers
  • http://www.ashsmash.com/ – the written content on the site gives a clear glimps into Ash’s personaily, but I question the value of linking every social network you’re a member of. And yes, that means I’m judging here about a Twighlight soundtrack being on her Rdio favorites.
  • http://jessicahische.is/ – despite no overt personality outside of the “thoughts” section, all of the visual details tie into her work.
  • https://unclegoose.com/ – yes, it’s an ecommerce company, not a designer or agency/studio. Hush.
  • http://metalab.co/ – Personality sometimes means serious. The language may be a little generic, but overall, you understand metalab is a serious company – they want to make things that will be used, and useful.
  • http://shlshk.com/shell-who/ – an amazing way to explain the nature of a company that is one person, with a network of regular collaborations.
  • http://www.codeandtheory.com/ – that’s one hell of an intro

Navigation & Content

There are two basic ways work is presented: one page sites and the traditional work/about/etc divide. I don’t know if either is right. Single page sites are nice, but often lack ‘craft.’ To expand, it often feels like the designer didn’t bother to make decisions, and instead just decided to throw everything in that could fit. On the other hand, do single designers really require much more than a couple pages? If everything is a separate page, how do you call out the relationships between your work and your CV and your other content? I’ve got no answers here.

Doing it right-ish

Given my newfound role as a manager, and all of the process and research experience that goes with it, I’m going to try to be a little more methodical about how I redesign danielboyle.net this time.

What’s good

  • Flexibility – it displays well in on tablets and desktop
  • Content updates – PHP build sit off of an XML file

What’s bad

  • There’s little sense of personality.
  • With more of my day job focused on thinking and writing and less on pushing pixels, that work gets segregated to my blog
  • Better integration of side projects
  • The smartphone experience isn’t ideal.
  • Lacking animation
  • Bloated code

Notice I left out design. Really, the design is OK. But it looks a bit like a wordpress template, and given how I want to change the content, I don’t think it’ll work.

But really, content is king

Yes, I pulled out an awful cliche, but it’s true. I have a couple school projects masquerading as “personal” projects. I’m over 10 years out – that’s not right. Also, there are many projects that don’t represent my. Yes, that Tecaté Chicas calendar was fun to make, and has given my great insight into the retouching process, but that’s not the type of work I want to do. Also, even outside of increasing my writing about design, work, craft, and life, my projects deserve more than a couple sentences – particularly when they’re collaborations with other designers, developers, and managers.

Why will this time be different?

I’m taking advantage of Evernote to catalogue everything I like when I look and individual portfolios and agency sites and preemptively preparing content. Also, for once in my life – I’m doing this because I want to, not because I’m afraid of getting laid off tomorrow.

With 2015 well underway, I feel like I can do a general status check without falling into the New-year-new-you cliche.

Initialization

I have over 100GB of photos on my hard drive. This is probably not that much compared to many people, but after an accidental Dropbox sync filled my drive, I decided to run Disk Inventory X and discovered that my iPhoto library was the single biggest block. Much of that is due to my trip to Japan, my son, and my woodworking. Thus, I went on a backup binge prior to purging my files. I may be bad at backups – my process is entirely a cobbled-together mess, even if it is effective.

Realization

Granted, RAW photos can add up, but I have way more photos than I do design work. Now, my day job is very management heavy – I manage my product, I manage my developers, and I manage the process. This leaves very little time for design, even though that is half of my job. In fact, the most “designing” I do is my woodworking, but my abilities there are so limited and I miss the freedom of design. This wouldn’t be a big deal, but when I do get the chance to concept freely, I now tend to feel like I’ve forgotten how to design. I may be bad at design.

Life is not a zen koan (though that phrase should be)

Feeling as if you’ve forgotten a skill is incredibly frustrating. I think the only way to admit it’s lost, and the regain the skills the same way you learned them in the first place: practice. In my case, it’s designing without the constraints of a large ecommerce company. I need to work on small, fast projects each week, and occasionally tackle larger projects.

Some examples then?

  • Redesign danielboyle.net
  • Learn Swift, so I can work with native apps on iOS
  • Splash-of-the-week
  • Revitalize my blog

One guess as to which comes first.