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Re: Politics: Humanity of Web Designers

From: Davey Leslie <davey@inx-jp.org>
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2000 11:38:52 +0900
To: Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>, "Charles F. Munat" <chas@munat.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <B663A7CB.32C1%davey@inx-jp.org>
Thus spake Kynn Bartlett on 00.12.18 3:28 AM at kynn@idyllmtn.com:

> Web designers who make inaccessible web pages do _not_ lack "fundamental
> humanity".  They do _not_ lack intellect.  They do _not_ lack
> maturity.
> 
> At worst, they are ignorant of certain issues

Kynn,

I think you've misconstrued what I wrote. I didn't say that people who make
inaccessible websites lack fundamental humanity. I said:

"...best design therefore would be the simplest: feather-light and nearly
transparent. But working like this requires an intelligence, maturity and a
fundamental humanity that will never turn a young web designer into a rock
star."

I have great respect for the Richard Saul Wurmans and Peter Bradfords of our
time. I'd even go so far as to say their work embodies intelligence,
maturity, and humanity. I'll go farther: these qualities are necessary
ingredients of good design. And even farther: the work resulting from such
qualities ennobles all who come in contact with it.

But do they lead to wealth and fame? Are they the watchwords of the design
community? Will they land a young designer a big commission? It doesn't seem
so. And I'm clearly not alone in my assessment:

"...Today the emphasis on style over content in much of what is alleged to
be graphic design and communication is, at best puzzling. Order out of chaos
is not the order of the day. The deluge of design that colors our lives, our
print, and our video screens is in harmony with the spirit of our time. No
less than drugs and pollution, the big brush of graffiti, for example, has
been blanketing our cities from Basel to Brooklyn. Much of graphic design is
a grim reminder of this presence...a collage of chaos and confusion, swaying
between high tech and low art, and wrapped in a cloak of arrogance:
squiggles, pixels, doodles, dingbats, ziggurats, and aimlessly sprinkled
liliputian squares; turquoise, peach, pea green, and lavender; corny
woodcuts on moody browns and russets; art deco rip-offs, high-gloss
finishes, sleazy textures; halos and airbrush effects; tiny color photos
surrounded by acres of white space; indecipherable, zany typography; tiny
type with miles  of leading; text in all cap (despite indisputatble proof
that lowercase letters are more readable, less formal, and friendlier);
ubiquitus letterspacing; visually annotated typography; revivalist caps and
small caps; psuedo Dada and Futurist collages; and whatever "special
effects" a computer makes possible. These inspired decorations are,
apparently, convenient stand-ins for real ideas and genuine skills." --Paul
Rand Design, Form, and Chaos

Let me reassert my point: what separates good design from bad design (web or
otherwise) includes the qualities of intelligence, maturity, and humanity. I
would never say that designers are the enemy; I will say that bad design is
everyone's enemy. It cheapens and confuses and distracts. It has enormous
political and even spiritual consequences.

Is someone who makes his way in the world by cheapening, confusing and
distracting guilty of some moral failing? In general, I would say yes.

A separate question, though, is what to do about it when Rand's Inspired
Decorations disenfranchise a segment of the community. Perhaps ignorance
requires education while callousness requires enforcement.

In general, I would say yes.

Your Pal,
Davey Leslie

--
davey@inx-jp.org

The New Economy: 
"Rootless men making existentially disinterested decisions about companies
without distinct character whose unknown workers produce intrinsically
meaningless products." --Peter Chojnowski 
Received on Sunday, 17 December 2000 21:37:20 GMT

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