11/06/2005

On creativity, the maintenance of

Long ago I made a conscious decision not to specialize in any one type of web design or in any one type of client niche, simply because it was too limiting. While some feel that specialization is where it's at, I think the inevitable tendency would be to feel that one had arrived at answers, and to look and evolve answers less and less. After all, why look when one already has the answers?

[Aside: I suspect that one of the reasons behind this "think" is really that it's felt to be easier to market to a niche by declaring that one had already developed sites in that niche. However, if that's the reason, then I think it's a failure of marketing, rather than a benefit to anyone.]

I spend a good deal of my time studying, cycling through various interests: design, marketing, user interface design, search engine stuff, new programs, new technology, what-have-you. To me, it's as much a pursuit of intense interest as it is an investment in moving forward.

In this, I find it's best to keep one's wits about one, especially when reading the various pundits. In the same way that some antiques are pricless works of art and some are … really old beat-up furniture … it pays to keep one's reasoning faculties about one when a Jakob Nielsen declares that "design is dead". I mean, really; reading such a thing, do you suddenly find your world shaken to its foundations, or do you see it for what it is and just happily move on? :)

[Aside: I think that's one of those "who shapes my world?" questions, don't you? I hope your answer is: you. It really ought to be.]

At any rate, occasionally I see forum threads discussing what to do if and when the creative well runs dry. Sometimes it takes a while to conjure up what one ought to do with a new site (and other times, it's a few minutes, no?). While I'm one of those who is not at all afraid of work or long hours at it, I have another innate skill which I also take the time to indulge: messing around.

Messing around is good for you, I'm convinced. It clears the air, blows out the pipes. And it's just plain fun, and sometimes instructive.

I just did a bit of a study on the Bauhaus movement, which was a Big Deal in design. Interesting stuff, and I'm not here to tell anyone what to think of it. What do you think of it? If you didn't know it was a Big Deal, would you think otherwise of it?

Ah, here's something: now here's something written about non-browser-specific web design; grit your teeth, if you must, and bear in mind that the date of writing is 2001 … and that he's got a point.

Given the intensely passionate stance of CSS purists, here's the same fellow opining on what he calls The Markup Wars:

HTML was supposed to be about MARKUP NOT PRESENTATION DAMMIT, and it was Fundamentally Wrong for people to do presentationy things in HTML.

It's a good, short read, and a good laugh. Yes, I know: anyone can say anything. So where's this guy get off saying these things about the W3C? Resume.

Amusing, no? Thing is, I think it's entirely helpful not to adopt fixed ideas based on what someone else thinks, or poorly-conducted, tabulated and interpreted surveys. Web design is a creative activity, and one has to be able to do one's own looking. The above should help when one of these Dictators of All Things Web tries to tell you what to think about what you do for a living. Gotta ask yourself what they get out of these pronouncements from on high. ;)

Bill of goods, you know?

And if you don't know what "bill of goods" means, by all means, look it up.

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