I’ve been skimming through John Waters’ book The Real Business of Web Design over the past couple of weeks. It’s been a refreshing change to read a book that talks about web design from a perspective that isn’t bogged down in the ‘how’ of what technologies will be used, but rather concentrates much more on the human dimensions of good design. You can find an excerpt from the book here at DMI eBulletin – The Information Age is History.
On design, Water’s writes:
It is not the singular quality of line, or form, or color in the Apple products or the Turkish tiles, or in any product or message for that matter, which we respond to. It is the totality of those elements—the way line, form, color, texture, pattern, purpose and meaning all fit together—that creates a whole far superior to the sum of its parts. Design is a holistic language that speaks not just to emotion or just to reason, but to both sides of the human brain.
Like Web services, the new metalanguage—a transformative language about language—which allows computers to speak to one another, design may be thought of as a metalanguage for humans, one which speaks more clearly, more universally, more comprehensively than any other language we have. A language that may be used effectively on the Web to help us cross borders, not create them. A language that may help us preserve cultural characteristics while sharing universal concerns. By thinking of design as the metalanguage of humans, the circle of language on the Web can be expanded to include everyone. (p.222)
Reminds me of the Mutton Birds song, ‘A thing well made’, which includes the lyrics:
Can you see the man who made that?
Can you see him putting it down and standing back?
Can you see the moment when he said “That’s it. That’s perfect.”?
At a time like that you wouldn’t care about your job,
Or your mortgage, or the fight you had with your wife.
‘Cause when a man holds a thing well made,
There’s completeness when a man holds a thing well made.
Now in the song, the items in question are rifles, which reminds us of the ambiguity of human creativity— the human capacity to be creative and innovative in design, and yet to use that capacity for both good and evil. And also of almost transcendent power found in things that are well-designed, and how that addresses something deep within us.