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What makes someone a “great” designer?

Can you define what makes someone a “great” designer?

It can’t possibly be design style. More and more I fail to see the creativity in Web 2.0. All of the designs look the same with their gradient backgrounds and big shiny buttons. Yet their are some popular designers who design with this one style.

I don’t think it’s information architecture and planning. None of the big time designers even talk about the planning. And companies like 37signals grow wiery touting the benefits of not spending much time with wireframes and site maps (note I didn’t say any time).

Is it designer branding? Then there are the designers who have fabulous blogs, a couple of high profile projects under their belt, and a loyal following. Experts at branding themselves, these designers frequent the conference circuit on the lookout for high profile projects. These people might be great designers, but foremost they are popular designers.

Can you figure it out? Who do you think are the greatest designers?

By Chris Tingom

Principal of Tornado Design, a Phoenix, AZ based web consultancy

9 replies on “What makes someone a “great” designer?”

“More and more I fail to see the creativity in Web 2.0. All of the designs look the same with their gradient backgrounds and big shiny buttons.”

I’m not sure I follow this? web 2.0 really has nothing to do with gradients or looks. It’s really about using AJAX to make websites act like desktop apps. But, you know that.

I think ‘Great’ design infuses all elements:

– Esthetically pleasing
– Fast loading
– Easy to modify and manage(CMS)
– Uses modern web techniques (CSS for layout)
– Uses code that is W3C compliant
– Usable and Accessible
– Search Engine Optimized
– Cross browser friendly

I think i disagree. Those elements make up a solid product but not great design. Design isn’t about the latest programming trend or the level of accessability. Design is about merging true creativity with what people need. I believe that you can design a great website with only html and photoshop.

Design is a form of commercial ART. Its about invoking the right emotional response to a piece. What makes it great design is the ability to customize that emotional response to people will click the right button, or come to an event, or pick up the phone and dial that 800 number.

Are we talking about web design here, or design in general? I think a great designer can get into any trend or style to say exactly what the client needs to be said.

I think a great designer uses both the right and left side of the brain bring together form and function but most importantly results.

There are a lot of “gurus” out there, I do not think they are the best in anyway shape or form. But they got lucky and branded themselves as industry leaders. Examples: Zeldman, Lynda, Nielsen, I am sure almost every web designer has heard these names once or twice.

And a great designer by him or herself is weak. To truly be great you need more than one person, involved in the mix. As far as pure design I have seen talent run the gamut across the web and have been in aww to many different styles and approaches.

About the Web 2.0 well using AJAX and other similar technologies is the main idea. Although for years many web designers have been using many technologies on sites. The fact is all 2.0 is is another useless buzzword. Not every site even needs AJAX.

As far as the 2.0 design style I think people have been using gradients shiny buttons etc. for years so that is nothing new and vibrant colors sure as hell beat the heck out of boring sites.

As a web designer (mainly Freelance and for my full time jobs) for many years I know just like all other graphic web designers my style changes and adapts as we all learn. There are millions of ways one cab design any site, but in the end the results for the client are what matters most.

A great designer needs to understand the problem they are solving whether that be on-screen, on paper or in the real world (e.g. furniture design). This is something very few designers can do with every new challenge. So, a truly great designer builds on experience with every job by taking criticism, accepting mistakes, and raising the bar.

Oh God. I just realised how fluffy that sounds 😉

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