I think I will stop buying design books

Most of the featured and celebrated work in web design books seems to be of a particular type. Flipping through a few at a bookshop recently: All the cool sites are image-intensive, Flash intensive, and generally text/functionality light – aside from the fashionable gesture at usability by mentioning Google’s homepage.

Don’t get me wrong, the featured work is without a doubt consistently beautiful visually. But this is hardly reality is it?

Most of what we use on the web is text heavy, form heavy and transactions-based. From government sites, to Amazon, eBay, Google, and travel sites. Does the web design industry consider these types of websites to be second-class jobs? Jobs not quite worth celebrating? Or are these real-world projects simply too hard to “make beautiful” and therefore no matter what the given effort, will never make it into these visual compendia?

In this day and age, can web designers afford to still limit their role/industry to a primarily visual one (perhaps as a hangover from its predominantly graphic design roots), and thus foregoing the real opportunity to use their design skills to make a more significant impact on the daily lives of people?

I see the same story with many architecture books too. The visuals and the designs are always stunning. But I cannot help but think most people don’t live in houses set in lush, lonely forests, dramatic cliff tops or generous suburban blocks. I can’t help but wonder, could it be somehow easier to produce an amazing piece of work when the site/location is already in itself stunning?

Surely to maximise the positive impact of good architecture on people’s lives we must be more prepared to celebrate work done in more ordinary environments?

Perhaps we the design industry need to up the stakes as it were. If the role of design is to help humanity move towards a better future in a larger, more fundamentally significant way, the design outcomes we celebrate need to move beyond purely and simplistically the visual.

See my previous post: A worthy vision.

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