Web Changes Over Time


Web Changes Over Time Essay, Research Paper

About a year ago, I started collecting Websites for references – while sorting through thousands of bookmarks and links, It became clear that some sites had a certain quality, or edge, absent in other sites. The design of these sites, mostly personal or self promotional, were perfectly executed, highly expressive, individualistic; They extended the web by disregarding existing Web and print design conventions. They often used web tools to make computer screen do more than what we’ve come to expect from yesterday’s Web. But more than the tools they use, inherent design of these sites express the unconventional, in term of color, typography, imagery or interactivity. These sites seem to me to be Web of the next generation ( a generation that is still defining itself as technology evolves.) These sites weren’t easy to locate at first, but as months pass, these kind of sites (thankfully) become easier to find.The golden age of design is neither gone, nor has it arrived. Observing the desktop publishing disasters on one side and the incredible potential of digital tools on the other, I investigate the relations between digital media – both as creative tool and as a delivery medium – and design. By layering capabilities and extraordinary filters of digital software, we aim to understand the way design communicates in new media and how the wisdom of traditional forms can be integrated into a dynamic and `sleek’ form. “We need to break up the old structures – as gently as possible – and to leave space for new forms to grow within both new and traditional media.” (Florian Brody , Tabula Rasa 1997).Being on the cutting edge is always somehow unstable – one longs for it, like traces of a strange and sweet scent that is also repulsive like the smell of decay (Durian). One follows the scent unconsciously, embarrassed and not even admitting the attraction to oneself. Cutting edge design is always an investigation into form, structure and function – like children cutting open their favorite teddy bear to find the underlying structure beneath a perfect surface. There is something very clean about surgery, about a perfect cut that reveals a fresh emotion. Are we advancing in design because in advances in technology? Is cutting – edge design necessarily connected to state-of-the-art technology? If yes, what is the state-of-the-art design? It is not computer that initiates the cutting edge design but the social and cultural shifts implied by its usage. Like what my lecturers always say, “Understand the technological implications of a new medium, work within the given limitations and at the same time break the rules that have not yet fully established”. We need to go much further. SCOENGEIST, a conceptual model for design, integrates old and new elements. “The image of a man in the 21st century needs to be shown with enough clarity to allow a man to recognize and learn about himself and life in the new century.” (Wim Wenders, Tokyo-GA, A Filed Diary, 1995) SCOENGEIST is the underlying concept for a design sensibility that integrates traditional and digital dynamic media. We are confronted with an empty design sensation, vision of something vibrating and confusing in. Looking in the designs of the nineties, it seems as if `Cutting Edge Design’ is fast becoming a particular, raw and improvised- looking style, but the true power of daring to look beyond the world established print and “new” media. Despite promises made by hardware manufacturers, design is not as easy as point-and-click, and using the common pencil, thus the many casualties at the cutting edge design. The Medium is the Memory : No longer the written word the only container of memory. “Electronic media have closed the circle back to the classical ars memorativa.” (Sara Anastasia Hahn, Web Design, 1997) Where images and spaces provide the grid of thoughts. Drawing both from traditional design and the possibilities offered by technical development, digital design is burdened with implications and expectations. The language of the computer is the language of technology, not the language of design. Without the knowledge of design, the computer (like pencil) is more than useless. However the concept of a white space – especially in dynamic media – is no longer the idea of mere but an integral part of design in a digital and interactive environment. Each site exemplifies `cutting edge’ in a different way – though the term is relative. The Pepsi World site (www.pepsi.com) (page ), for example, features a radical design that is surprising for a corporate style, yet it serves the purpose of conveying a product or brand image. The Jodi.org site (www.jodi.org.com) (page ) is also a cutting edge website, but conveys no literal content and no message – viewers add their own meaning, or perhaps, as I suggest, the content remains in the `mind’ of the computer. My life was changed when I surfed a link to Prophet Communication Website (www.prophetcomm.com) (page ). It asked what I felt was a very important question about this new medium: Where have all the designers gone? This was something no one had bothered to ask before. It was as if nobody thought it possible to harness primitive html coding language to actually design as if it were a medium like print, interactive cd-rom or video. It did not occur to many big business to make the web something more than a hunt for information. Not many designers tried to take control of html – instead they let it control them, resulting in many boring solutions. Where were all the designers, indeed. This new medium seemed to freeze the entire design community like a cow caught in the headlights of a speeding car.Was there a middle ground where the time – honored experiences of the print designer and the young, inexperienced – but technologically knowledgeable new designer could meet?In general, designers don’t like rules. Rules obstruxt creativity. Rules require the use of one’s talents to serve someone else’s interests and put personal projects on hold. The Web is a brave new world, uncharted territory where not all the rules have been written. It is not coincidence that some of the best sites are created by individuals or small collectives with their own goals in mind, or by artists seeking to promote and represent themselves. The World Wide Web is simply the tool for the individual. As an individual on the Web you have freedom of the press staring you at the face. You have the power to communicate with other individuals, regardless of their geographic location. Your ability to communicate is not controlled by some outside power but by your own. What are you going to do? What are you going to say to the more than 50 million people who have access to the page you created? This is what cutting edge designers ask themselves. The end results are developed by just doing what comes naturally.Given that creating a Website is relatively easy and no special training is necessary for an already computer experience designer, one can see how individual creative effort is emphasized and rewarded is this medium. There is a certain advantage to taking more relaxed attitude online. Being young and full of your ideas is an advantage in some respects. The certain aspects of process and formality haven’t been worked out yet – nor will they ever be. On the Web, the game you play is your own. Many designers throw caution to the wind and actually let their own personalities shine. In this manner, it gives clients a no-bull-*censored* look in their inner working. These designers ignore the rule of bandwidth and let their imaginations fly, though the tools are still catching up the dreams of the creators. The Web brings to realization the deepest desires of creative individuals by giving them the power to not only realize their visions, but to broadcast them and receive feedback and perhaps even support. On the Web, the impulse to know the individual behind the creative act (whether it’s a personal expression or to represent a company or a product) is accompanied by an attitude to be yourself and show the world who you really are. Cutting-edge designers are not afraid that this will hurt their businesses and reputations, but rather they see it as advantageous to have their self-image in the leading position. Some designers do not look to traditional print graphic design but look to the future of interactivity to create new ways to visualize information. They come out from behind the computer and show some of their own personal vision – instead of merely interpreting the client’s message. What has separated cutting-edge designers from the rest of the pack are those qualities of fearlessness and realness and a desire to push away from what it should be. The future of art and design. There are few media in which one or two people are capable of creating, marketing and conceptualizing, and producing every piece of a project. The web’s flexibility made it possible to take a concept and it a reality in a short period of time – if it doesn’t match the vision, it can be reworked quickly. The cutting-edge web is free to pursue the quest for beauty and understanding and to communicate that desire and vision to the world. The Web allows that vision to evolve and mature and change quickly as the designer does. Take as evidence a site such as Hypnagogne (www.hypnagogne.com) (page ) where basically two people took an idea and created a project combining cinema and CD-ROM into a Web experience. The Web creates new venues for exhibiting by allowing them to create in a way unique to their sensibility.Cutting-edge is a highly individual concept-dependent on the background and interests of the definer. One person’s attempt to define “cutting-edge” might be: an unpopular style on the border of receiving public acceptance.” Of course, after a brief time in the spotlight, the cutting-edge become “mainstream.”Too often, however, “cutting-edge” is merely a design that everyone thinks sucks- until a famous person says it is genius, which often happens in web magazines, design journals, “cool sites of the day” lists and the like. Technology itself often becomes the part of the definition of cutting edge, especially to the technology-addicted web surfer, for whom a great plug-in or innovative java programming can be as important an element of the site as the graphics and layout. The cutting-edge of web design evolves and changes more rapidly than in other media. This is due to the ability of web developers to affordably deliver content. The economic playing field of the web is more accessible for more talented designers and students than for any other medium, such as magazines, video, film or even direct mail. An innovative site doesn’t necessarily have the same exposure to the world as microsoft’s and netscape’s site, but its presentation and contents can outshine many high budgeted sites. When you compare the cost of this presentation and the cost of the cost of printing a glossy promotional mailer, or working in a film crew, you can see the detachment from major budget constraints shapes the future of the web. For one thing, the office is always open-designers can go to their regular day jobs, but can generate a lot of `night owl’ part-time design self-satisfying creations. For another thing, images for the web need only be 72dpi resolution easy to work with on an average machine. At the same time it also accelerates the design process. What is the future of cutting edge? Maybe the year 2001 we will have been so inundated by interactivity, graphics, and sound that someone will capture the spotlight by returning to the “retro” web look of 1994 (i.e., gray backgrounds, left justified text, etc.) and be proclaimed a genius. As the future is designed, page by page, it’s important to remember that as a cutting-edge designer it’s easy to become exhausted with your own work, perhaps loosing perspective on what cutting-edge means to the rest of the world. Surprisingly, we have noticed that some print designers are hesitant to enter the web scene. Generally those who have had only limited exposure to our interest in the web seems that there are an underlying fear of new technology, similar to the fear of desktop publishing that swept through the design world. Designing interactive media requires a non-linear, highly experience-based approach that can challenge even the best print designers. Although the required programming skills lessen with each passing day, print designers still grapple with designing for the screen.

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