What do I do?

07 May 2005

As some of you may have read here recently I am planning a redesign of The Dredge, due to go live sometime around the end of May. Unfortunately I am having to deal with a serious lack of direction in terms of where the design is going. Everyone has experienced 'designers block' of course, but for me right now it's an even more generic thing than that. What kind of a designer am I? Am I even a designer in the proper sense of the word?

Where did I come from?

I'm pretty new in this industry really, and although I have been building websites since the mid 90's and working to some degree as a 'web designer' for the last two years, it's only recently that I've been able to turn my full attention to exactly what I want to do. I know what drives my fascination with the web---and it isn't web standards (in the Zeldmansense), usability, accessiblity, or even good old fashion 'design'. It is communication, pure and simple. The social implications of the medium fascinate me as much now as they did when I first discovered the web. As much as I can't do without always-on broadband access now, I do kind of miss the sound of my 56K modem dialing-up the world. The first time I heard that sound in my own house, on my own PC, was one of the most exciting things I can remember (sorry, but I warned you this would be self-indulgent drivel!) The point I'm trying to make is that I don't come from a graphic design background, and although I'm fairly happy charging about in Fireworks (sometimes even the Pen tool does what I ask it!), it's not really my thing.

So what is my thing?

I'm realistic enough to understand that the way forward in this game is to be a 'Jack of all trades and master of one (perhaps two on a good day)'. I look through my RSS feeds and I see a whole bunch of 'web designers', but at the same time I also see a whole bunch of specialists. You get my meaning. The trap I fall into is wanting to break into the CSS Vault / Stylegalacrew, when I'm just not welcome. I never fall into this trap on other projects, because I know what is best for the client, and if they want some strong graphic work, then I'll almost invariably hire in some help. Unfortunately once I find myself in the /current/thedredge/redesign/ path, then I begin to hope I might be an Oxton, or even a Hicks, and it only leads to weeks of misery as I rediscover that I'm not.

So what is my thing then?

I did manage to carve out a little niche in web typography, and was briefly in some demand as a consultant in this type of role (no pun intended). So maybe usability is my thing? Or typography? Something which is cropping up a bit in my day to day work at Multimapis some Javascript/DOM scripting stuff, and it's really opened my eyes to the kind of potential that the technology offers. Although I've got a hell of a lot of work to do before I could even think about branding myself a JS/DOM type person! But it's along those kind of lines that I possibly see myself getting interested in. I'm not spieling all this just so no-one expects an amazing looking re-design. It'll still be fucking cool---don't worry---I'm just trying to nail down some direction for the site, not to mention myself! Anyway, that's put some of my thoughts down in bytes, and hopefully cleared my brain a bit before I get back to the drawing board. Something is coming at the end of this month whatever happens. As a mad friend of mine rhetorically proclaims when he's being released on bail, or starting to look for another new job, or paying large hotel bills for smashed up doors/tables/bars: "It's all a learning curve, isn't it Andy?"