Digital Web Magazine

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The Designer Is Dead, Long Live The Designer! : Comments

By Didier P. Hilhorst

April 7, 2004


dave davis

May 13, 2004 10:01 PM

a very thoughtful article. it’s very provoking to me, however. i appreciate the tone that you take in the article and your hesitation to move too strongly in one direction, but i’m taken aback at many of your statements nonetheless. i’ve outlined your comments in double quotes below, and responded where i saw fit.

“Usability experts might argue that a site can be visually unappealing but still just as easy to use, but this doesn


May 18, 2004 8:17 AM

I share a lot of your insights, but IMHO your renewed rhetoric attack on the function-form-frontier is futile. The philosopher Heinz von Foerster had this to say about the subject (roughly translated):

the form is the message and the message is the form.

So design, function and content are all part of the message. Differenciating the relative impact on the overall meaning of a specific message (web-site, publication, product) is of great value, but categorical discussions really are futile.

Nick Finck

May 18, 2004 9:14 AM

Maybe you guys will appriciate this view of the debate that I published in 2001: Form vs. Function: Finding the Balance. I go into detail that it is really not “form vs. function” it is more “form ever follows function.”

Marilyn Langfeld

January 29, 2005 5:59 AM

I’ll follow Nick’s comment with my observation that there are many types (or forms) of websites, and that the different types have differing usability needs. I’ve written about it here: Usability or usabilities.

Briefly, my feeling as a graphic designer with over 20 years in the field is most of what I read from usability folks applies to complex e-commerce sites, and is well worth understanding. But these rules may not apply across the board, and tend to dampen creativity.

A few years ago, before blogs hit the scene, the idea of text “below the fold” (as it were) was anathema. Today it is accepted that people will read long pages if they are interested in the information being presented. Blog design broke a usability rule, and IMHO, won an important battle about the design of web pages.

I also find that many web designers do not have a classic graphic design education, nor the type of apprenticeship I had in printing, typesetting, production techniques and design itself, that can only be gained at the feet of master designers. This lack of breadth in design education may lead to wanting simple rules in the design arena. Like wanting a recipe for designing a color palette, because they don’t have experience with color.

Back to my original point. The first time I designed a magazine, I had already had experience designing textbooks, annual reports, identity programs, etc. but I still had a lot to learn about the form we call “magazine.” But at least the form has been well defined over the years. Web design forms (blogs, e-commerce, portfolio, e-learning, government, individual professional, etc.) are still being defined. Holding too tightly to usability guidelines will hold us back in developing the forms. But that doesn’t excuse designers from learning about usability and using the principles in creative ways.

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