New Medium, Old Game


Me, as a young crazy designer in my Adobe Seattle office circa 1995.

Me, as a young crazy designer in my Adobe Seattle office circa 1995. Back when the internet was just getting pictures, CD burners had just dropped under $1,000, a new device just came out called a "digital camera," beige computers were all the rage, and I had long hair.

Years ago, when one thought about design and message the only thing one would think about was something in print. That was the medium, print, the web existed of course, but it seemed like almost a novelty. I’ve been on the internet technically for two decades, even the early days of CompuServe and AOhelL, back when there was that exhilarating thrill of firing up the 9600 BAUD modem, hearing that high pitch squeal of ones and zeros pass through your phone line, to look up, say, a static 320 X 280 static GIF that would show the weather radar around the country, which would take a couple minutes to load in. As a weather geek, this was pretty cool, to see what the weather was doing around the country, on demand, no need to wait for the news. What’s interesting to me, however, was even then, the most important place to tune into was various list serves or online bulletin boards. The thrill of “talking” to someone else, to feel a part of community, to get the latest about some technology as, what most those early heady days of the web, the only people on it, were us geeks.

Fast forward to today, now we have countless blogs or CMS sites, social media places to choose, various technologies come and go and get hot then not, but ultimately the same draw to the internet remains the same, content. I’ve a mantra I’ve said over and over (and over) in various conversations to lectures to anyone who will listen really, content is king. Content. Is. King. Can’t stress that enough. I love design, I’ve been a designer mentally my entire life (or artist, what have you), but ultimately what drew me to going online way back when floppy drives still were floppy, and 2 MB of RAM could get you by, it wasn’t the online GIF of the US weather radar that drew me to the ‘Net, it was the discussions about weather. Nowadays I can not only follow weather watcher blogs, I can chat with them, in real time if needed. Yes, I can get some very complex, and cool, images of weather, but seeing weather radar is to actually hearing about weather akin to seeing a map as opposed to hearing stories about travels. Ultimately nothing will replace going to a destination, any more than it’s important, if you’re a weather geek, to experience weather, but the fact remains, the internet brings us all closer together in real time, or on your own time.

Oh, and the picture of me back when I worked at Adobe in this post, it’s important to realize that, although most the entire Seattle staff were lovers of art and design, and we ourselves were pretty much all artists, our work for user education from the Classroom in a Book series I worked on, to user guides and other documentation, the focus was always content first, design second. Yes, we enjoyed doing the book covers and the artwork, but even then, all of that was secondary to content. Content, after all, is king.