Published On: November 9, 2009
A couple of weeks ago, Joshua Lomelino, an old design professor of mine, approached me to answer a few questions regarding my take on interface design for an advanced web design course he teaches at Savannah College of Art and Design. Josh, and SCAD, were gracious enough to let me post the interview on the JLB blog! It’s a little long so I’m going to post it in two parts…
Hope you enjoy it!
We were hoping to discover the method behind your creative processes and how you approach visual interface design for interactive design projects. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.
Could you describe your work at JLB?
I’m the Creative Director at JLB. In other words, anything graphic design related has to go through me before it leaves the office. JLB’s approach to the web is to offer clean, easy to use interface designs with the development having an emphasis placed on strict CSS and some serious Search Engine Optimization. In addition to web design and development, JLB offers solid brand development, tried and true print design methods and creative copywriting. Our clientele is mostly corporate and we do a lot of work with non-profits and local community organizations. We really take pride in having years of experience working in print, web and copywriting and being able to offer the client everything they need from beginning to end. Okay, enough of the sales pitch…
With your work in interactive design, how does information architecture and the organization of an interactive project’s site flow relate to visual interface design? Is there overlap between information design and interface design? Where does this overlap occur and how does one category inform the other?
I’m a firm believer in the idea that the sites content should dictate the design. A designer can’t create an effective and easy to use website unless they understand the kind of content they’re dealing with first. Most of our clientele want their content to be first and foremost and aestheticism second to last.
Through our design process, there usually is overlap between information design and interface design and I think there should be. Visually, it’s obvious when a designer has designed a site without keeping content interaction in mind. The site feels clunky and often times is hard to navigate. If a designer creates an interface that is clean and cohesive and helps to encourage content interaction without being gimmicky or frustrating, the designer has done a good job. Check out this site designed by Cabedge. The NAV is repeated 3 times on the homepage alone and doesn’t feel superfluous.
Some helpful tips: Never “re-imagine” site navigation. People have been conditioned to know where and what to look for and it’s confusing when they can’t find it. Also…never re-size the users browser window for any reason whatsoever.
“No matter how cool your interface is, less of it would be better.” About Face author and thought leader in user interface design, Alan Cooper.
Does interactivity drive interface design, or does interface design dictate interactivity?
Yes. It’s been my experience that interactivity can (and should) drive interface design AND interface design sometimes dictates interactivity. In some instances, a site’s visual interface serves only one purpose, and that’s to promote interactivity within the site. Take Youtube.com for example. The interface was engineered mainly to support interaction with Youtubes video content. Or Google’s home page. There’s hardly anthing there but the Google logo and a search bar! There isn’t a single, superfluous element that gets in the way of the user and their end goal.
Do you feel that interface design should reflect creative solutions that are an extension of the purpose and nature of interactive solutions? What are your philosophies on visual interface design?
If I’m understanding your question, then I certainly do. I recently read an article that said a site will receive 30% more e-mail sign ups just by adding a simple arrow pointing towards the sign up button. A well thought out and executed interface will get the results the clients wants and be an enjoyable and non-frustrating experience for the user.
My personal design ethos is to certainly create something that’s visually stimulating but more importantly communicates the information easily and effectively and provides the user with a clear and concise direction through the information.
I love typography and I can tell when a site has been designed by someone who knows what they’re doing when the typography is clean and refined. Keep content organized using contrasting type styles and your design will immediately look more professional. Case in point.
What are your favorite types of projects to work on? Why are they your favorite projects?
My favorite projects are the ones where the client gives me time to experiment and be more “creative.” I’m often designing based on customer feedback and sometimes previously tracked numbers. When the client says, “I trust you, fearless trendsetter, to breath life into the internet and create a site in your own image, as you see fit,” my little heart leaps. I don’t want to sound cliche, but that’s the truth. Doing so much corporate design means I have to create sites that will stand the test of time…but sometimes I just want to design something based on the graphic design trends of the moment. They can be so much fun!