Boundless Inspiration

I was reading a booklet called Poise from a recent Indy. In it, there’s a quote from Michael Rodber designer of the EuroStar trains. He says,

Design is not like fine art, where there are no boundaries. The challenge for a designer is that there are going to be certain boundaries and you have to work within them. Firstly, you define the boundaries and then you define how you can exploit them. Within the boundaries, you look for opportunities and it’s that process of identifying the opportunities that can make or break a good design.

This piqued my interest and I started thinking how it might be applied to web design. Even in these days of millions of colours and oodles of display configurations the boundaries are there, they just may not be as apparent (in fact, trying to accommodate portability within your design may present a boundary in itself).

So I started a list of general (maybe obvious) boundaries that I think exist:

  • Viewport size, accommodating the multitude.
  • Colour variance on different displays (despite millions of colours).
  • The medium is 2D.
  • Web is geared towards using text. Text must be horizontal.
  • Page download size (even in a broadband world, it must be considered).
  • Usability and Accessibility. e.g. the clarity of text and the design/interface.
  • The Grid.
  • Browser implementations (limitations).

These are some of the ‘boundaries’ that I think about when I start to design a site. I get satisfaction out of trying to ‘exploit’ these challenges and hopefully becoming a better designer. However, in order to utilise them they’ve got to be identified and understood, so this may be the beginning of a useful (cathartic) exercise.

Posted on Tuesday 25 September 2007.

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