We've all heard the saying many times. It was counseled to us as kids, as adolescents and maybe as adults. In fact, there's a possibility that we've also uttered the following famous quote.
Don't fix what isn't broken.
There are many times where this advice is absolutely correct. However, not in this occasion.
In recent weeks, there has been quite a bit of discussion going on about art direction on the web, and unfortunately, I've encountered many different people who don't see something broken in the way we're accustomed to consume content.
I, in no way am a pioneer of this idea. I was one to browse the archives of many different art directed blogs, in awe of the layouts and experiments that these designers were conducting. After months of research on the topic, I was convinced that art direction was the right way of displaying content on the web and decided to implement it on the site you're reading.
Regrettably, most of the articles written on art direction are from people who don't practice it. Their writings and opinions are based on theory and instead of promoting it, as it should be, they bring it down with arguments which are false. Let's examine three.
Art Direction is a Trend
Trend is defined as:
The general course or prevailing tendency.
This is completely false. Art Direction is bigger and better than a trend; it's a change. It will shift the way we view the web and it will alter the way we design for the web. In fact, it's currently doing so. It's a push in the right direction and it makes us reconsider the way content should be displayed on the web.
The definition above also states that a trend is a general course. This is not the case with Art Direction. It isn't the cool thing to do and it shouldn't be. People from all around the web should realize that this is the right way of doing things. It shouldn't be embraced because they feel pressured; we're not in high school here!
Jad Limcaco, from Design Informer, summed it up well when he said:
Blogs who just quickly spit out posts are more of a trend than art directed posts.
Art Direction isn't for Everybody
Every website is different and that is a fact. The internet is an enormous place and the influx of content is just as big. Thousands and maybe millions of articles are posted everyday. However, as we've established, Art Direction is a change for the web in general. Meaning, that everyone can and should implement it.
The real difference lies, however, in how much to implement. There are publications like The Bold Italic, that design every and any article published. Realistically, this isn't possible for everyone. Yet, the key principle stays the same: No layout fits all content. If that were true, most of us would be out of job. Therefore, the real question isn't if you should practice Art Direction, it's how much and where you should practice it.
Art Direction is a Substitute for Quality Content
This is blantantly false. Take a look at some Art Directed blogs such as Design Informer, Jason Santa Maria, Dustin Curtis and Paddy Donnelly. These men pour their hearts and souls into not only the design; the content as well. Yes, there are times when these designers choose to write about personal events which have nothing to do with design. However, the whole idea behind Art Direction is to have a design that displays and communicates the content correctly, no matter the subject.
I've visited many Art Directed blogs and I haven't seen one that is mediocre. To many of the designers, it's their personal project and their jewel. They strive to create content that is interesting, of high-quality and that talk about the issues in life that resonate and impact people. In summary, if the message that each of these Art Directors wanted to communicate weren't important, why spend so much time and effort in creating the article's design?
The truth is this: the way content is being consumed is broken. There needs to be more of a balance where design compliments and accentuates excellent articles. We are the bloggers. We are the designers. We are the solution.
This post was guest written by Tim Smith.