December 17, 2005

Raising the Bar on Design

Or, artists in the house

Years ago at VirtualPROMOTE — back before it was called JimWorld, long before Jim Wilson passed away — Jim started a thread in the searchengineforums entitled You know You’re a webmaster if…. Dozens of people responded; this thing went on for pages. My favorite was from langard:

When…answering the telephone or the door is like swimming up from the bottom of a diving pool, only to discover that you must instantly remember standard language and speech patterns before you say anything at all.

Indeed. And so it is at our house. I don’t know how anyone else works, but I’ve usually got a lengthy list of things to do formulated in my head, and just plow through them one after the other to the end. Interruptions are, well, bad. Yes, my office is something of a cushy, carpeted affair, with its own windows and TV and VCR/DVD player and a shelf of books, boxed programs, videos and DVDs and a piece of Oriental art or two (hey, I am stylish here in my t-shirt and shorts). I am usually to be found here, face to the screen and deeply engrossed. My husband, in the adjacent room — also with its own TV, VCR/DVD player and bookshelf — is a writer. Most of his books are dictionaries and references. But — and there is a point to all this — you don’t want to interrupt a writer, because I can probably recover a lost epiphany of code, but interrupt a writer and you’ve lost a piece of art. Maybe for good.

The point is that we have each learned not to burst into the room declaring, "You know what I think?!"— we’ve each seen the other’s shocked look as the thought of the moment drains away.

———–

Which is why I’m writing this, and why I was out surfing the ‘Net yet one more time instead of winding down with the writer-in-the-other-room. I chanced upon a couple of sites, both with great visuals that I think anyone can appreciate. And really nice to look at when you’re heavily involved in commercial corporate-style web design.

(1) The first is the site of writer D. Challener Roe, whereon he posts some stories. I love the paper stock background and the thoughtful use of visual elements associated with writing. Really beautiful. (And ya gotta love a guy who straightforwardly declares, "Welcome to my center for self-promotion"; breath of fresh air, that.)

While I keep going back and forth on the issue of getting a Wacom stylus tablet mouse-thingy, this site makes me want to go ahead. Look at those icons!

(2) The second is TheVerburgs.com — the family site built by the dad, "a graphic designer." I’ll say; this site is just gorgeous. And refined. What I see here, aside from the tasteful color scheme, is balance and contrast: large against small, just enough of each, and contrast at such a refined level that it can only be called beautiful. What’s more, this is a WordPress blog and, except for the calendar, it’s pure table-less CSS design, and not the simplest CSS I’ve ever seen.

These sites amply illustrate the need to put in whatever time and effort it takes to do an exceptional job. No auto-generated how-fast-can-I-get-it-done thinking here. There’s auto-generation, and there’s craftsmanship. Heck, if Eric Clapton, arguably one of the finest guitarists who ever lived, can name an album Journeyman — and this after some 30 years of recording — what does that say?

It is this kind of thing that I think raises the bar for us all. As an artist — really, as an anything — I think it’s important to keep growing, to look at excellence around you and to keep learning, striving and improving.

———–

One of these days I’ll write about Jim. It’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I could talk about it publicly. Those of you who knew Jim know how much he did for the Web industry, and particularly the SEO industry. It’s why so many of us know each other, and part of how I remember him.

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