Thom Bennett - Website and graphic design


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Web vrs Other Medium

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Original Source: Design is kinky

Nice article below…


I submitted this theory topic, so I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. Designing for the web doesn’t have to be much different than print or film if you don’t want it to be. Most Saksi-influenced surstation-esque stuff is great printwork, and that new wddg quicktime movie is great filmwork. I guess I’m just interested in the things the web can do that neither print nor film can do.

The web can do at least three things that neither print nor film can do:

1. the web can be like software, which means interactivity, non-linearity, and all the other media characteristics that arise when you let your visitors play a major part in the outcome of your site. I can flip pages in a magazine, and I can change channels on a TV, but I’m just changing from one static/frozen presentation to another static/frozen presentation. On the web, as a surfer, I can actually dynamically change the nature of the content itself (if the designer will let me).

2. the web can synthesize and combine tons of media. Film combines photography and audio. But the web can get at all your senses. The web can even tweak your haptic senses (like touch, how heavy something is, how much resistance something gives when you push on it). Praystation’s flash sliders and yugop’s flash gravity simulation menus are examples of haptic communication.

3. the web, because it is a real-time worldwide network, allows a level of collaboration and improvisation between two or more people that just isn’t possible in most other media.

No one of these three things is particularly unique to the web in and of itself. The web can be like software, but so can a CD-ROM or an arcade game. The web can combine media, but so can a multi-media performance arts piece. the web can allow real-time, long distance collaboration, but so can the telephone. It’s the fact that you can have all three of these things working together at the same time that makes the web really unique.

Not a lot of designers are interested in exploring all these areas. I think this is because most designers come to the web with a print design paradigm, rather than a furniture design paradigm or an architectural design paradigm. Once designers embrace the fact that design is about function as well as appearance, I think more designers will take the leap and learn how to program. Already, lots of web designers are at least exposing themselves to Flash action scripting and DHTML, which is a probably a good thing.


I see the web as sort of a middleground between print & film–not quite able to handle the size of a film, yet it offers the option of movement. It is, however, quite different from both of these mediums, and very young in its evolution.

Personally, I tend to want to juice up stuff w/ lots of colors & illustrations, which can be a bit heavy when it comes to the web. Scale is a big factor with me as far as subjects go–in a print,I’d be working larger. My subject matter has deviated from what I typically choose for painting or print–I find myself being more attracted to smaller objects in my work, to make my work more efficient as animated objects. In print or painting I did a lot of work with the human form, but on the web, I simply feel as though I cannot get the physicalspace to play around with human form, except in bits & pieces.

A frequently expressed artistic gripe about the web is cross platform compatibility & instability in general, especially in relation to viewer experience. Unfortunately, if you want for a piece to look consistent across the board, you’ve got to make some major sacrifices. Display “space” is a factor that is difficult to control on the web. We are limited to viewing a piece in a browser window, on a monitor, so any image we create is confined to that space, as opposed to an exhibition space environment. Monitor color calibration and screen resolution are factors which are not controllable from viewer to viewer, as well as dial up speed. You may have the loveliest image, but if someone is on a 56k dial up, they may not be willing to wait for the visuals to download.

The printed piece is a stable form, overlooking the average wear that paper will undergo, fading colors, etc. Surface texture is an element of print that it’s tough to take advantage of on the web–by this I mean paper stock,print techniques such as thermography, metallic inks, embossing, etc.- -the tactile nature of print is something that I miss on the web…

All areas of creative expression need a strong vision & intent in order to be successful & memorable. Currently, a lot of the work on the web is either experimental or portfolio oriented, which to me, signals proof of its youth. In time, I think, people will expand these ideas outward into more original, complete “idea-driven” pieces. In print or film, because of maturity, theme & content are considered more.

The amazing thing about the web, though, given all of its shortcomings, it is easy to access, & you can’t get much better than worldwide distribution in your own “space”! This is what attracted me to the web in the first place–self publication that’s affordable. Print & film simply do not offer that kind of affordability, combined with distribution. The ability to pull from various artistic disciplines is something that makes the web very different from other mediums–painting, sound, video, typography, programming, etc etc can all be lumped together into one luscious piece to delight out eyes & sizzle our brains–plus that added element of interactivity…Ohhh, goody! It would be excellent to see the web viewer’s experience level out a bit, much like the home video viewing experience– where the “work on display” would appear similarly from household to household.

Web centric sites that I find appealing tend to combine artistic skill with movement and excellent visual themes. For example presstube–James Paterson employs a hand drawn feel to his work, & manages to make lines & shapes loop around to create forms that have a lot of raw energy. I greatly admire Lee Misenheimer’s ( work, because he uses very subtle, simple movements on top of crazy rich drawings of characters. This is the sort of stuff that I find myself going back to again & again, because I really appreciate Lee’s expertise in drawing, image collage and technical skill. is an absolute beauty–inspiration from orderly chaotic forms in nature, and wondrous attention to detail make Erik’s work strong in every dimension. I enjoy Wonderfulheadhurt because of interesting imagery combined with strange, actionscript driven movements. Rustboy(as well as all other work involving Brian Taylor) is a site that meshes technology & artistic vision in a very impressive manner. All of these sites manage to live on the web in a very comfortable way–these folks have managed to work around, or by-pass the web’s limitations, and the outcome is absolutely stunning. Other sites that are equally successful in establishing the web as an excellent forum for artisticdisplay are Volumeone, Going on Six, Prate,, Pitaru, Megatight…I could go on and on…These folks (and many more that I’m sure I will smack myself for forgetting) invoke something that is very refreshing in the mass of e-commerce & corporate sites that live on the web.

Karen Ingram


Print is beautiful and classical. Its what I curl up around and peel through under lamplight. Sliding fingers over and around the powdery sleeves. Its the crumpled and abused Bike rag that has followed me through dirt, tent-condensation, hours beneath sweaty clothes and months on the bottom shelves. It’s the mighty tome of architecture that lives atop the draws that house the things that are closest to me. Print is somehow real in a way that film has never been for me, and that the web can only fleetingly be late at night.

It is in the spacious and velvety confines of well spec’d caverns that film-makers reach out. Call it the luxury of a controlled audience environment. All you have to do is step in, sit down and get comfy, open your mind and dive in. The big, dark room, the 40 foot screen, the precision sound equipment: its all there to deliver it just the way it was intended.

And the web. It is perhaps its own worst enemy. Design for the web — most design on the web — exists in the context of . . . web design? I wonder who read my heart’s outpouring in their lunch hour, coffee break or while ‘checking the links’ off K. There’s nothing more I can really do than hope that maybe someone will see it the way it was created: Late at night in some melancholy void, as ready to be inspired as to close their eyes and drift away – that’s where I hope we reach someone. In the same way that volume|one, staticlife, the first submethod, and the old FameWhore blew me away with what they said, and how they said it.

There are gaping differences across all aspects of these three disciplines, some are closing – to the glee and dismay of whichever parties – as we feed off each other and push harder and harder. Web is historically the least defined of the three – in many ways similar in terms of possibilities, but consumed and rehashed and spat before anyone has time to even take it in. For a space that was never meant to be designed all that graphically, the web has been pushed a long way. But look outside design circles and take note of how things really are on a larger scene. Film may primarily be the domain of film-makers, and print that of authors and publishers, but as designers on the web, we’re a minority.

Among oceans of others, the defining differences between print, film and the web — boil down to:
1. the price of admission,
2. the method of delivery, and,
3. the audience, their environment and what they’re preparation to bring something to a piece.

Now its starting to get very late, so I shalln’t delve any further into those three lest things start making even less sense than they are now, so I’ll swing around to five of my favourite examples of the web being used as only the web can…

Matt just keeps drawing me in again and again. One summer night I stumbled over volume one and spent the next hour exploring the way it moved and responded, and thinking about what it might mean. But that was before I was aware of a web design community, at that time I’m not sure there really was one… well, there was, but not like now. Think mid 1999.

– the original one The original Submethod kept bringing me back for the same reasons volume one did. It was at times intensely personal, other times social commentary, but the thing it really embodied about the web – something that really is part of the huge power of the web – is the way it responded to me, and to the things that were (are) happening in the world. No vacuum.

google They don’t come much more web-centric than search engines. Designed with one part big dob of common sense (the interface) and two parts hardcore (the searching and indexing algorithms). Google came along about two months after I’d completely stopped using search engines. It still pains me that they had to pay *ahem* someone to build that interface – its 200% common sense (what more does a search engine need than a search box and a go button?)

staticlife Sun An is one of … let’s say less than ten people who have genuinely wrapped emotion up and let it wander around in a place on the web. There’s no hint of ego, nor the kind of teenage blogger mope that’s so pervasive. I really don’t want to say much more or to even pimp it too hard. It just is what it is, and lately I’ve been missing people just being themselves.

dreamless Because its a hint at what could be achieved. I’m still hopeful for the rebirth of the information superhighway – the concept of sharing and communicating freely. Don’t go getting cynical before your time.

So… could you print these sites out and read through them? Put `em in a book? On a wall? Sure, most of them, yes. Would they still be alive? No. Could Submethod’s message be delivered on film? Maybe. Would it be the same? I don’t really think so.

The power of the web as a medium is unique, if not the all encompassing juggernaut of The Future, as so many companies have tried to have you believe. We’ve just got to remember why we’re here and how we’re different from other media. Both are important if the web is going to keep progressing towards something that isn’t something we already have.

Thanks for your time reading this. Sorry if it makes no sense, its late.

Steve Caddy

In what fundamental ways is designing for the web different than designing for other media like print or film? Or is it really not that different at all? What are some sites you admire that seem particualrly web-centric, and what about them do you like?