From Decent to Great – ConvergeSC #4

Let me begin by saying that I cannot come close to providing a decent summary of this speaker.  Matthew Smith (from SquaredEye) did a phenomenal job when he spoke on Saturday, as was evident by the massive amount of nods, tweets, and chatter that broke out during and after his presentation.

On a non-internet related note, Smith is a fantastic rhetorician.  He is very comfortable, witty, and organized in his thoughts and presentation material, though he comes off very casual.  It seemed as if everyone in the audience found him very easy to listen to, and he was able to identify with everyone in the room – whether designer or developer.

SquaredEye is all about the details.  Sure, every designer is, in a way, a perfectionist.  Let’s face it – whether it’s a personal or business project, chances are you won’t be able to even take a break until it’s exactly how you want it to look.  I honestly believe that designers have a gift (and a curse) that other professionals don’t have – they are devoured by their desire to make something look good.  Smith, however, seemed to emphasize a different sort of design detail.  The not-so-obvious things take a website from decent to great.  Double borders, gradiant shifts, 3D effects, etc.

In a few ways, Smith said a lot of what Jason Beaird had mentioned earlier – websites need great balance, good color management, and clarity.  He talked about the importance of whitespace, de-cluttering your content, and simplicity.  You need to make room for your site to breathe, letting the content flow and becoming unified with the rest of the page.  Just like good beer, design is all about the nuances – the little things that are hardly noticable, yet make it so enjoyable.

Matthew said something during his presentation that really stuck with me.

“You need to stop learning web design – learn design.”

For designers, this can be a bit difficult.  Admit it – there’s a sense of pride when you throw around the words “web design”.  But design, be it web design, print design, or building design, is fundamental.  When something looks good, people listen.  If Carrie Underwood was trying to say something to me, she’d have my absolute attention.  When a CD cover looks neat, we pick it up.  When an Apple commercial comes on, we watch it.  When the latest 460cc driver teases us from the magazine adds, we buy it.  When a website looks neat, we come back.

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