Debate – Design Is Not Dead!


    Welcome to another SitePoint debate! This time, two passionate authors argue over one of the great mysteries of the Internet: Is Design Dead? Don’t forget to read the opposing viewpoint so you can make up your own mind…

    Is design dead?

    Within the context of this discussion the question is "Is Web design dead?" To properly diagnose the current condition of Web design, we should trace it back to its birth. When was the first Website? Some of you will be thinking about those lovable geeks over at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center who, 11 years ago, hooked up their first display to the Net.

    Ok, that was a beginning, but it wasn’t the beginning. Let’s take a look even further back… say about 35,000 years, to France, circa 33,000BC, when some would-be designer decided to communicate his thoughts, experiences and wisdom on a cave wall.


    His WYSIWYG was an early, early beta, and the pages were very slow loading. User friendliness was definitely an issue, but at least the server was stable (35,000 years …how’s that for up time?). Ok, so the tools have evolved a little over time, but the motivation hasn’t changed in the slightest.

    As a species, we’re defined by certain fundamental characteristics. Beyond our purely physical needs there are central issues like the need to communicate, the need to assert individuality, the need to belong, the need to create, and to leave a legacy. Whether these needs are motivated by love, hate, compassion, greed, fear, desire or any of the multitude of drivers that push our world along, they all demand a means of expression.

    Design is nothing more than the wrapper used to contain and convey effective communication. Thus, design cannot die unless communication dies first. And with the birth of the Internet and the WWW, that possibility is more remote now than ever before.

    The Internet has opened up the single most effective tool for communication that the world has ever experienced, and design is at its very core. The way it functions, the way the computers transact, the software that runs it, how it looks, and how it makes you feel are all based on — and result from — design decisions made every single day. And what’s made it a truly awesome medium is the fact that each one of us who uses the Internet is participating in that ongoing design evolution. The sites we visit, the items we buy, who we buy them from, the pages we create, and the discussions we have are all part of that design process. We shape and change the Web just by using it — an amazing concept.

    The Internet is changing the world, and design is the central process that makes this possible. Is design dead? It’s not even out of diapers yet.

    Perhaps when somebody asks "Is design dead" they’re really asking "Is it possible to publish a site and make $10,000 a week from it?" That things have changed over the past few years is beyond question, but the situation’s nowhere near as bad as some think –- and no, we don’t all have to hang up our editors and go back to doing stuff in the "real world". The opportunities have only just begun to surface, and the potential for the Internet has barely even been sampled yet.

    No, we can’t just throw up a site and have thousands of customers clamouring to hire us, but so what? The true satisfaction of Web design work comes from enjoyment of the creative process; research, and the development of necessary insight to anticipate where the Net is headed; and drive, which shapes our goals to utilize the medium’s capabilities. The Internet is a monster, changing and evolving daily. If, as designers, we don’t recognize that fact, then we’ll be stuck wishing for the "good old days" of yester-year. So what if things that worked last year are no longer viable? That’s exciting as hell.

    We, the designers and developers of the Internet, have a front row seat for the fastest evolving, real time cave wall painting in history. Not only that, but we’re also actively participating in it — and it’s only just begun! Is design dead? It hasn’t even started on solid food yet.

    As new technologies are developed, and more successfully integrated into our everyday lives, the opportunities for smart designers are only going to increase. But we do need to be smarter, we need to develop our skills, and we need to learn the technologies required to stay ahead.

    We need to know and understand the standards, but also drive forward in the spirit of true innovators, pushing every envelope we find. If something doesn’t work, we need to find new modes and new viewpoints. This is the essential nature of the Internet: it forces upon us the choice to evolve, or stagnate.

    The Internet won’t allow design to die, it demands the constant change that design delivers. I get so excited by this stuff that I’d honestly do this work for free…if I didn’t have to pay my bills, that is. Is design dead? It hasn’t even started talking yet.

    The creative drive to convey thoughts, ideas and inspiration in effective and entertaining ways, for fun and profit, is over 35,000 years old. I’m sure it can survive the "Internet bubble".

    Don’t forget to consider the possibility that Design Is Dead! Check out the opposing viewpoint so you can make an informed decision…