First, there’s value in long form design writing and there’s a place for it, for sure — but A Brief Message is not it. We don’t mean to take away from the traditional approach to design criticism by any means, in spite of what our cheeky About page says. We’re huge fans of the kind of critical analysis being done at Design Observer, AIGA Voice, Speak Up and many other design sites, not to mention the many great design journals published offline. But we also believe that we can expose more ideas to more people by making design insight as digestible as possible.
That’s why each entry weighs in at no more than two-hundred words, and why we’re going to be inviting a wide swath of design thinkers to pen Brief Messages. The way I described it to a friend is that I’d like someone to read an article at A Brief Message and think to herself, “Wow, I just read something really smart written by someone really smart, and I still have time left over to watch Miss Teen South Carolina parodies on You Tube.”
There’s also another, more formal idea at work on A Brief Message: the notion that online publications don’t necessarily need to be decorated databases. They can be art directed, too.
Right: Full brief. The inaugural article at A Brief Message, written by Steven Heller and illustrated by Jennifer Daniel and Erin Sparling. Be sure to open your browser window as wide as you can to see the whole thing.
We have the tools — capable publishing systems and Cascading Style Sheets — necessary to design online in such a way that the page responds to the content. We just don’t have the experience or precedent.
It’s a nontrivial amount of work to design something unique for every article, but that’s what we’re aiming to do here — and hopefully with brilliant, evocative illustrations every time, too. We’ll publish roughly once a week, and possibly with greater frequency in these first few weeks, so the burden shouldn’t be too unmanageable.
In a way, this is a kind of wager that this kind of design can be done online. I’ll concede right out of the gate, though, that while it will aim to be pretty, it may be frequently ugly. If you peek under the hood from time to time, I’m sure you’ll find some semantically improper or just plain goofy code, and cross-browser consistency will not always be exemplary. It’s going to be a learning process, so your forbearance will be greatly appreciated.
More to Come
For now, that’s as much as I have to say. I’ll be adding more commentary here as the site continues to roll out. But as I said, it’s been a long weekend in bunker mode trying to get this launched. Hopefully you’ll find it’s worth it, though. There’s just the one official Brief Message up there right now, but we’ll be publishing more very soon. Let us know what you think.