Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Layers of Design: the style layer

Style vs. usability needs ...

"Designing for the Web, as I see it, is a multi-layered process. It’s a process in which each layer addresses specific design needs related to client aims, brand characteristics and site user habits and expectations. Sadly, the last of these layers to be applied in the process, the application of style, is an oft-maligned element of design. Style for its own sake or by itself is not design, certainly, but stylistic concerns are important to successful design.

Even so, any day of the week you can find designers in online forums criticizing web page graphic designs for having style. Prime targets for criticism these days include rounded corners, gradients, drop shadows, large buttons, fat icons or a worn look. Some designs garner criticism simply because the title font is Trebuchet MS.

Much of this criticism is explained, ostensibly, by relegating these graphic elements into the dreaded and clichéd “Web 2.0-look” category of graphic design. It seems that once a cliché is defined, all of its characteristics must be persecuted without thought or consideration for context; at least by those who lack relevant understanding.

Now certainly these or other graphic elements can be ill-used and irrationally applied to design. But like all graphic elements, each of these has communicative value and contributes to the message conveyed by the page design. A designer must know what each of these and other graphic elements communicates and use them where and how it’s most appropriate. Indiscriminate use of stylistic elements in design does indeed amount to needless affectation or embellishment. Nevertheless, style is an important layer in the design process and must not be neglected."   continued ...   (Via UX Magazine)

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