One of the best sessions I attended at SXSW was Zeldman’s “Awesome Internet Design Panel,” which ended up diverging to a panel on the business of publishing.
What was amazing was how appalled the majority of the attendees were. The chatter on Twitter was disparaging, and someone even sent Zeldman a question saying “if I knew this panel would be about publishing, I would have gone to the one on type.”
But that narrow-minded approach is exactly what I see as wrong in design today. If you’re a designer, you can’t just design. If you are a business person, you can’t just do numbers. Everyone has to understand different concepts across a company and apply that trade to what they do.
Zeldman followed up and nailed it:
Now, I like a good rounded corner talk as much as the next designer. I’ve given my share of them. Also of line height and measure, color and contrast, how to design things that don’t work in old versions of Internet Explorer, and so on. In the practice of web and interaction design, there will always be a place for craft discussions—for craft is execution, and ideas without execution are songs without music, meaningless.
But right now (and always) there is a need for design to also be about the big strategic issues. And right now, as much as design is wrestling with open vs. proprietary formats and the old challenges of new devices, design is also very much in the service of applications and publishing. Who gets content, who pays for it, how it is distributed (and how evenly), the balance between broadcast and conversation, editor and user—these are the issues of this moment, and it is designers even more than editors who will answer these riddles.