Photos and Words of Patrick Calder

I live in Washington, DC with 1 cat named Pixel, 6 cameras, 3 computers, 158 movies, 286 books, and 1 bowling pin. I own the Design Foundry and pretend to be a graphic designer by day.

Please keep in mind that this post is more than 3 years old. Opinions change. Tastes change. Everything changes. I may still agree with or like this, or I may not. But everything is kept up here for archival purposes.

beautiful content / December 15, 2004

The author of Airbag Industries is cranky again:

“But unlike the Kinkos copied zines of old …. the cousin to the zine, the blog, has in general has become rather stagnant and complacent in it’s form of post and comment, two-column centered with a drop shadow. I don’t consider any blog-based site free from this trap…”

Greg Storey
It’s not the evil ’blog ruining the world. Blog software comes with default templates. You can’t have it any other way. If MovableType has been downloaded a hundred million times, you can be sure ninety-eight million of those people couldn’t create their own template if their laptop depended on it. And at least ninety-six million of those people don’t care what their journal looks like. You can’t really complain about the design aesthetic of those websites, since the don’t exist as designed objects. It’s like trying to convince me that my blue-jeans and t-shirts will never get me on the cover of Vogue.
Dozen’s of navigational interfaces have had their day. On this website alone, I have tried probably 20 or 30. A single, side-straddling navigational menu is the natural evolution. The single point of navigation, no matter where it is, is a result of the “least-common-denominator” effect. “People” can’t handle having part of the navigation here and part of it there. Having it run down one side or the other has some minor support from theories of user-interface, but is largely the result of the technical limitations of HTML and CSS, even today.
In the early days, I could get away with freaky interfaces, because people brave enough to go online expected to think a little about what they were seeing. But “online” is now a normal. A usual. A thing-that-everbody-is-doing. So while on my own website, everything is up for grabs, when I design for a client, they get what “everyone” expects. To give “everyone” something that they don’t know how to use it to be “doing it wrong”, because… you know… everyone says so. Mainstream clients need mainstream solutions. I have no intention of “getting funky” while I’m trying to teach people how not to die of AIDS.
(God knows I encourage people to “do it wrong”, ’cause what the hell is the point of going through life knowing what to expect?. But everything in it’s place.)
But frankly, the web has always been a matter of content over form. If you’re lucky, you find a way to make the form of the content attractive… but you’re always trying to convey content. The earliest sites were just people saying “this is me, and this is what I like”. Then people started elaborating on what they like, and creating fan sites. (My earliest website had a page devoted to Janis Joplin). Then people put up portfolios and resumes. And so on. And so on. The evolution of the web has always been a matter of finding ways to share more content, in terms of technical capability and sheer quantity.
You give me a beautiful, innovative, awe-inspiring website that only has naked pictures of Dick Cheney… and I ain’t having anything to do with it. But if you have nothing but blank pages with pictures of Angelina Jolie… I am so there.

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