Designing Interfaces for Continuity

Thinking back to when I started web design I recall having a deep desire for continuity throughout every project. I’m certainly not speaking of template design, but maintaining style and technique. It has become my belief that continuity sets us apart and not our mundane usage of design trends.

Every designer has their mark of creativity that sets them apart. Whether its their skillful moderation of drop shadows or the ability to make anything look as delicate eye candy. We all have trademarks that we use for the extent of our careers. These are the things that set us apart. No matter how much your style actually changes, the continuity therein will always define you.

Recognizable Technique

Early through late 2005 I worked in a publications department of a university along side a web developer, media designer/photographer and project manager. On one occasion the media designer came by my workstation gazing at my monitor. He asked, “how do you get such soft gradients in photoshop?”. I then proceeded to show him and he went about his merry way.

Our techniques for getting the results we want need to be recognizable and creative. Creativity doesn’t have to warrant complete difference from already existing techniques. However, variations are acceptable. Maybe more or less of a drop shadow or moderate use of 1px borders. Try going as far as not using a technique at all. Sometimes the lack thereof is technique, which is also referred to as minimalism.

Continuity in Technique

Can your techniques be grouped into a trend? Or are they creatively setting you apart? If you agree with the latter, great! However if your design technique just screams trend, you’re not on the right track. Your designs are a dime a dozen and you’d be hard pressed to find consistent work.

Design trends usually retain the use of buzzwords to describe the style or look it embodies. A prime example is web 2.0. Big, bright and obvious is what comes to mind when I think about that phrase.

Where I think web designers fail is taking one trend and running the gamut. Sure, you may become meticulously good at designing for a trend, but it doesn’t actually spell moving forward. When I was in middle school I took drum lessons for a year or so. My drum teacher taught me something that I will never forget. His lesson to me: (paraphrased):

Want to know how you get good on drums? You observe great drummers, study them, borrow techniques or some aspect of their style. Do this religiously and never settle on one drummer. Over time you embody a style and technique that is all your own and no one else’s. All you’ve done was use others as building blocks.

The above can be true with web design. Borrow from the best, rolling your own styles and techniques. If you’re on a website that you think is aesthetically pleasing, borrow some ideas and roll a variation.

Screw trends, love creativity.

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