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Designer, Dare to Experiment!

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As designers, we often face the same kind of commissions. However, the internet and specifically websites have the power to be used as a creative and expressive medium. Looking at a website as an artistic medium will broaden your limits and encourage creativity. Ultimately, it will make you better in everyday commercial design.

Websites are generally used to sell, to inform and to entertain. Whenever you work with clients, you often face limits you must keep in mind. A particular style, perhaps linked to current trends in web design, a limited budget, certain features that have to be included on the website and harsh deadlines are just a few examples of challenges developers often face.


Web Design as an Experimental Medium

The internet offers many creative and alternative possibilities. By looking at a website as a medium you decrease the limits of what a website is for you, it helps you rediscover what you can and what is really possible with the technology you have in your hands.

Screenshot of Antelope Island, a Chrome Experiment
Antelope Island, a Chrome Experiment

As a designer, it is important to regularly invest in yourself by playing around with the technology and tools you use. There are already many initiatives which showcase what is possible on the web using existing, accessible technology. Chrome Experiments, for example, is just such a website where projects are exhibited using technologies that we all know, such as HTML5 and JavasScript.


Benefits of Experimenting

Experimental design often comes from a personal interest in technology and the creativity of the individual. There is sufficient reason to (on occasion) leave commercial design behind for a daring experiment or a personal project instead.

We are human and we remain creatures of habit, as much in our work as anywhere else. We'll often work in similar, familiar patterns; the same tools, the same methods. This is logical. Familiar workflows make us more efficient, we have to make fewer decisions, which means less thinking. All these benefits prove useful in everyday commercial design.

Automated robotic procedure
Automated robotic procedure on Photodune

Unfortunately, this also has some disadvantages. By working in patterns we limit ourselves in what we do. It reduces our creative thinking and we quickly opt for safe options when working for a client. Therefore, experimental design is very important for us designers to remain 'fresh' and keep an open mind.

Collaborating with other designers will often lead to surprising results, especially on creative projects. Working with others improves our creativity and encourages all those involved to learn from the rest (very important in an industry which is constantly changing).


A bit of Inspiration

One noteworthy example of experimental web design comes in the form of The Wilderness Downtown:

Screenshot of The Wilderness Downtown

This is a creative concept where interactivity and video are combined into a beautiful experience. It explores the limits of what is possible on the internet and in modern browsers.

The Wilderness Downtown

Another interesting experiment is the following website, 360langstrasse, a virtual tour of the Langstrasse district. Is this a concept which could revolutionize tourism websites?

Many designers and developers specialize in information architecture. The challenge of providing information in an efficient and interesting way for the desired target audience is at the very core of every web design project. An interesting example of how experimentation, functionality and information are combined in an accessible concept for users is Universeries.


Leveraging scrolling within the browser has been trending for a while in web design, but some examples can still surprise us on occasion. What do you think of Jess and Russ, a beautiful website that serves as an invitation for a wedding. Simplistic with beautiful illustrations, a great concept.

Jess and Russ

Do you have any inspiring examples of experimental web design? Feel feel free to share them in the comments.


Creativity in Key Components of a Website

Creativity can lie in the little things..

Screenshot of the 2Advanced studio website.

We, as users, are accustomed to familiar patterns on the web. This aids in providing intuitive user experiences, but something new and surprising will often leave a positive impression.

Here are some examples of some key components of websites which are tackled in an alternative way.

Navigation

A website which combines style and navigation is Daybreak 2012. The geometric pentagon forms the basis for the brand identity and reoccurs in different parts of the website.

Screenshot of the 2Advanced studio website.

Navigation is complicated when it comes to creativity. Website navigation should be immediately obvious to the user and behave in a way they expect, therefore experimenting with the navigation of a website can be a risky move. Do it succesfully however, and you may find you enhance the brand through interactive experience.

Interaction

Screenshot of The Secret Location.

Building interactivity into a website is not a simple task; it can often be distracting the user, leading them away from the core experience. A website that has handled this well is The Secret Location. Interactivity in the form of a film which starts when you click on the banner of the website is an excellent way to showcase their own expertise and their brand without letting people forget that this is a website for an agency in the first place.

Typography

Typography is a crucially important aspect of design. How exactly we shape text determines how the user reads and interprets it. Experimention and innovation has always been evident in typography and leads to a very fast turnaround of trends. Use of attention grabbing titles is one such example, such as Everything Design by Piccsy.

Screenshot of Everything Design.

Typography can often fall foul of trends though. When all's said and done, typography has an underlying purpose which mustn't be ignored. Thankfully, we have folks like Contrast Rebellion to remind us of this.

Branding

Branding and building your own identity on the big Internet has become very important. As developers, as agencies, even as a individuals we want to stand out in the crowd. Customers should choose you. Because of the growing competition, creativity is a divine tool to distinguish yourself.

Screenshot of the Envy Labs website.

Envy Labs has build its own identity through their illustration and clean design. Succesful branding requires creativity. The first impression when a customer visits your website is often all decisive.


What's in it For Me?

No experiment is ever a complete failure. It can always be used as a bad example.

Looking at inspirational examples is one thing, but doing something yourself is the real thing. I would like to challenge everyone to play with the technology you have in your hands. While experimenting, the final result is subsidiary. The important thing is the creativity, the use of technology and your own thought process which is different from the commercial work you do. It's the difference that will surprise you and inspire you. It's that process that will improve you on all aspects of design, including commercial work.

Without limits and without stress you get the most out of yourself as a creative individual. It is a smart choice to regularly invest time in yourself by finishing own projects. You won't only learn a lot, you might also end up creating inspiring projects that you could use to convince clients of the creative person you are.


Collaboration as Your Ultimate Tool

Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr

A step further is to work together with other designers. In fact, if you're able to work with designers from completely different disciplines (photography, video, product design etc.), the skills and expertise of each individual will vividly come into its own. It isn't always easy and success is not always guaranteed while working out a personal project from within a team, but the process itself is very enriching.

Every creative person has his (or her) own methods for producing concepts and results. Each discipline has its own set of creative tools and methods. From product design, to fashion designers to architects. The differences are what lead to a greater understanding of your own work and enhance the creative process in general.

Are you working on a web project? Ask for feedback from a photographer or fashion designer, someone who isn't occupied with web design. They will look at your portfolio or commercial project in a very different way than a fellow web designer. They often see things you don't and can enrich your project with their own vision and concepts with experiences from their industry.


Conclusion

Challenge yourself to create something which shows off your strongest qualities as a designer. A new portfolio, an expressive concept for a website, or a fun interactive experience, go for it! Through trial and error you will find that you become more creative and more capable technically. Best of luck!

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