Why Design Rocks...
I am not a great fan of Sting,
but years ago I watched him in an interview (this was during the
and one thing he said has stayed with me after all this time: the
interviewer asked him why, seeing as he could play jazz quite
well, he preferred
rock. Sting said "Jazz is more laid back and relaxed. The artist
has lots of elbow room to start, explore and develop a theme.
He can work up to it. Whereas with rock, you don't have this luxury.
If you're doing a solo, for example, you have to come in blazing
from the word go and I find this very challenging." Or words to
At the time, this was to me a perfect explanation of why I liked
rock so much and didn't care that much for jazz. However, thinking
it now, it is also a perfect explanation of why I became a designer
an artist. In fact, in many ways, the difference between jazz and
rock is the difference between art and design.
Let me explain.
An artist, let's say a painter, has lots of elbow room to develop
an idea, or a theme. He does this in his own time. Excluding certain
special cases, there are usually no deadlines to speak of and, in
fact, this process of trial-and-error experimentation is an essential
and integral process, and, in the case of a successful artist, is
a process which is observed and applauded, just like a succesful
and applauded while he warms up to a theme, plays around with it
and brings it to a conclusion.
A designer, on the other hand, doesn't have the luxury the artist
has. Just like Sting says, the designer is under pressure to come
in blazing from the first moment. The designer, unlike the artist,
is hired for a specific reason: to express ideas of someone else
in a medium of someone else's choosing and to be snappy about it!
I find this very challenging.
I am hired for a certain contract. The boss says: "This is the
client, this is the product. We have two days to make up some comps
pending approval, another week to do the whole site." As always,
I get a sinking feeling. This is no place for a jazz player. Maybe
gone into something more simple, more relaxing, like Air Traffic
Control. Clutching the brief to my chest, I make my way to my desk
and sit down heavily...
the rock guitarist takes over.
Of course, you can't really go in blazing from the word
go and be immediately and totally original. Like all rock guitarists,
you develop certain contingency plans, tried and tested methods
of safety net,
totally alien to a jazz player who is seen as being more creative
simply because he has more time to do his thing: "OK, the client
doesn't disallow a black background and almost any
colour will look good on black but for god's sake don't overdo the
red! Logo on the top left, horizontal content across the top, drill-downs
on the left. Lots of menu options makes the site look busy so let's
make the menu slide out of the way when not used. Uh-oh, no Flash
allowed. Let's use animated gifs on the mouseovers to make the site
look less static..." And so on...
Soon you are so lost in a private conversation which is taking place
within yourself that you may even miss the actual point in time
the design on the screen starts deviating from a slightly uneasy
collection of pre-set forms
and starts becoming unique. Within yourself you have started speaking
your client's language but with your own grammar. You may have spent
hours at the computer until you've reached this point,
talking to anyone, not doing anything else, all the while fooling
yourself that you are under great pressure and you just have to
sit there until something worthwhile comes out while actually you
haven't talked with anyone or even so much as lifted your head because
what you're actually experiencing is the excitement of the chase
or maybe even a kind of Wonderland where graphic elements start
talking to you and begin to express certain desires such as "I
need a tiny little
drop-shadow to make me a little more readable," or "the
logo is making it hard to breathe in here, could you move me more
right?" or even "I really feel naughty for being here
as it is a slight breach of the corporate guidelines but the client
You haven't so much as lifted your head because, at that moment
in time, there is nothing else in the whole world that you would
rather do or think about or even care about.
And this is why I like design and not art. Why I became a designer
and not an artist. Don't get me wrong though, I don't thrive on
pressure like so many people
particularly like it but the plain
forces me into a "state" where concepts like time and
(and even pressure) cease to exist. This is the kick I get out of
being a designer, this is what floats my boat, this is what "sends" me...
I don't think that I could I could achieve such a state if I was