While reading Brendon Dawes’ Analog In, Digital Out, he speaks briefly in an early chapter about his inspiration—everyday things. While this is not exactly a novel idea that hasn’t been reiterated about design for many a year, he does make another statement that truly deserves some reiteration:
if you’re designing for the web, why look at loads of design portals that show loads of web sites that essentially all look the same? […] Surely they offer too narrow a view to be really inspirational.
In fact, if you watch galleries that are upgraded often, you will quickly notice spurts of sites that look similar to something else previously submitted. Where’s the blasted inspiration these sites supposedly offer?!
Recently, I showed a friend of mine a concept I was working on, to which his response was, “Typical Kyle Meyer cookie cutter.” Further discussion exuded that my style was too minimal. It was bland and boring. At first I was a bit perturbed, but to each his own. Then I got to thinking about it more; at the very least I have a developed style and mannerism, and I have reasons for doing things the way I do.
Developing a style seems to evolve from iteration. I feel mine mainly came out of my methodology of process. I find Photoshop tedious and slow to get my ideas on the screen, so instead I tend to actually write CSS and photoshop images or slight conceptual variations by screenshotting what I have working in the browser. It’s a bit abnormal but it’s how I do things and it typically leads to a very minimal sparse typographic layout. I’m capable of doing fancy graphics and the sort when it’s necessary and depending on the site I’m working on I may do the whole thing in photoshop, but I love the results that come out of just using code with minimal graphical flair.
I’m a big fan of Dan Cedarholm’s design work and he’s an perfect example of personal style. Especially in sites that are personal projects of his; but it also flows over into his client work.
Dan continues with a similar feel on his wine tasting site Cork’d with a lot of similarities that seem to permeate his work.
I’ve been having a debate with myself lately about sites that seem as though they were dropped into a premade generic template that was bought, yet were in reality specifically designed for that specific client. Somehow they came out looking inappropriate for the company and more often than not: “Web 2.0” Design has a chance to bring attitude, identity, and personality to what is essentially nothing but a logo and rambling marketing babble in many cases. I would hate to think that the client was naive enough to find this acceptable or if it was budget concerns, or whatever. In any case, there was a missed opportunity.
Sometimes it can be hard to find inspiration for such things, but resorting to something so generic is such a waste. Combining a personal style with the needs of a client usually creates something that is nothing short of spectacular. But we shouldn’t put a personal touch above the needs of the design itself when it comes to client work; I think some designers who would marry their gradient tool tend to let their love for such design devices ruin work where it doesn’t fit.
Right now, I think the print design world does a much better job than the web of combining style with client needs. There’s plenty of sheep-herding design trends, and overused elements; but as a whole there is a greater amount of variation. Granted, there is a lot more freedom in the print world but there’s so much untouched territory in online design it’s staggering. What print design seems to have an advantage in is that it is a physical medium, using different materials lead to interesting textures, lighting plays a factor, etc. But what’s to say that we can’t grab a scanner or digital camera and work these things into the digital medium?
Maybe it’s because I’m hopped up on Brenden Dawe’s seemingly endless creativity, but do something different; try to stand out. Make a website background with acrylic paint, scan the bastard, and use photoshop to touch it up. Experiment with opacity and depth. Just go nuts. Develop a style.