Q: I’m starting to worry about the future of design. I see how good standard web templates are, and see stuff like design by Artificial Intelligence, and I think design might not have been a great career choice.
A: You have nothing to fear but fear itself. Fear, and algorithms.
It seems like a scary time, right? It has never been easier for designers and non-designers to create great websites that even five years ago would have cost a fortune to build. Look at services like Squarespace for example — nine bucks a month, press a couple of buttons and beep-boop, there’s your website. Hell, even I run a couple of sites on Squarespace.
Mashable, Wired, and pretty much every other publication agrees — design is dead.
And in a way, it is.
For the huge swathe of businesses and services out there, a website that looks ok and does everything ‘well enough’ is all they need. Nobody needs us anymore to build an e-commerce site to sell their novelty golf-balls. That work is gone, and good riddance.
More interestingly, we as a broad internet culture seem to have come to a consensus on what ‘good design’ looks like. We go through minor trend changes, but as Erika Hall noted just recently, every site seems to look the same these days.
And then — HOLY SHIT — there’s The Grid, whose promise is that your site will be built entirely by their algorithm. Seriously, watch this and tell me you don’t soil your pants for just a second.
If it wasn’t for that soothing voiceover, you’d think design was over, right?
Screw that. I say bring it on.
There is more to design than the pixel-pushing of visual design, and the people who understand that are going to shine in this new environment. The real designers, the problem solvers, the people who are able to come up with novel solutions to new and complex challenges, are not going to be replaced by an algorithm.
“The problem of websites being ugly is pretty much solved.”
The problem of websites being ugly is pretty much solved. Let’s move onto to bigger, better, and more difficult problems. If the robots want the job of making things prettier I say let them have it. I don’t want that job, and really, neither should you.
And even if you do, once the algorithms make every site look the same (let’s call that the Design Singularity), making a design look different will be a simple task of breaking rank with the lockstep look and feel.
Personally, I’m bring Bauer Bodoni back.
Screen resolutions are good enough to handle it now, and is it a classic.
Design isn’t about making things pretty. Design is the deliberate and never-ending task of making things better. That’s the job we have.
Let the robots polish the turds.
Ross Floate is the creative director (whatever that really means) at Floate Design Partners, a damned good design firm in Melbourne, Australia. He is not afraid of Skynet yet.