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Old 03-11-2008, 02:14 PM   #1
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Default On graphic design and the web

Khoi Vinh is design director for the New York Times web site, but he got there by training as an illustrator and working as a graphic designer.

I just read Steven Heller’s interview with Vinh in the April 2008 issue of Print magazine, and I wanted to link to an online version, but alas there is none (yet; or maybe ever — Print doesn’t seem to post much content). If you want to read the piece, you’ll need to check your library or local magazine stand.

What interested me mostly is that although Vinh has a formal print design background, he now works primarily on the web. We often hear that “graphic design and web design are utterly different.” That notion reflects a serious and unproductive confusion by both graphic and web designers. On most aspects, the web is another design medium. The technical issues are different, not unique.

The web has come to its own set of graphic conventions (clichés), many of them horrors from a communication point of view. Sort of like some of the worst design and typography from the middle of the 19th century, in fact. But these are early days as far as the web is concerned, and I hope that young designers like Khoi Vinh will be among those who transform web communication in the future.

(True, the two sites of his I know of, the NYTimes front page and his Movable Type-based blog Subtraction, do not validate. Maybe that is the difference between being a design director, not a web site designer. Art directors and graphic designers sometimes have similar differences.)

But he spoke sensibly about the intersection of graphic design and web design in his interview with Heller, including this:
“…there’s a clash between traditional practitioners of design and new practitioners — and there I don’t think it’s a clash so much as it is a gap. These two groups, who are actually covering very similar territory, think of themselves as separate and distinct. I think that’s the problem. …

Do we want these new media to grow and evolve with or without being informed by the values of traditional design? If the answer is ‘yes’ — and for me, it is — then we’d better close that gap .”

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