Having worked in a corporate environment for over a year now, here are the things I miss most about creative web design projects
I’ve been working for a corporation for more than a year now, and most of my time is spent updating and developing websites to market their products. And while this is a good, stable job that pays my bills, the sites I create follow very strict guidelines. It’s nothing like the creative web design projects I was able to undertake at university. This mostly comes down to the sites needing to be highly usable and purpose built for SEO (search engine optimisation). Even my Shelley Bassett site follows these rules and is very uniform in it’s approach.
So why am I thinking wistfully back to past portfolio projects? Well, I’m building yet another corporately branded site at work. And while I love the feeling of watching my scrappy code come together into something functional, I can’t help but dream of other uses for the interesting snippets I’m writing. But what exactly do I miss? Can I build these creative sites just for myself?
Freedom to Break Rules
The biggest thing I miss about creative web design is the freedom to break rules. While designing the Soviet Constructivism website, I was constrained only by style and text. It follows no rules of usability. It isn’t mobile friendly. I didn’t even optimise the images. In fact, depending on the connection, it can take a while to load. But years later, I still like this site. Which is unusual considering I can hate things before they’re even finished!
It’s not so much the layouts or the colours or even the structure I like. I might build this differently now, using CSS instead of images, but I wouldn’t change the interest created with layers, images and text. By throwing all “good web design” principles to the wind, something truly unique was made. Sure, there are still some more traditional elements and web features, but it’s possibly the most creative thing I’ve built for the web, not needing to exist for any purpose other than it’s own art.
In a corporate environment, the only problem to solve is “how can we get views to translate into sales?” This isn’t the most interesting issue to be focusing so much time and energy on, but it is what I’m paid to do. Before being hired as a media manager, I was able to spend my time on questions like “how do people interact with different elements” and even “how to teach primary students about colour“. Of course, some problems are less interesting than others, but overall, there was a lot of variety.
The more creative web design processes allow for some freedom when it comes to answering the question posed. Was a full website best solution? A single page one? Maybe even an app? Outside the box thinking can generate really interesting results, and totally unexpected solutions, something that gets lost is the fast turn-around at work.
Probably the greatest loss from the transition into the corporate world has been that I can’t just learn new things on the fly. When I created Massacre In Melbourne for my interaction class, I taught myself PHP and built the framework and database from scratch. Sure, I’d be burnt out if I tried to smash out a project like that every 6-12 weeks… But that’s valuable knowledge that I now have.
I also like sharing my solutions for web projects. My GitHub page is slowing being populated with snippets that appear across my websites. And when I think I’ve got it mostly right, I’m trying to write little how-to blogs here. The kind that anyone could follow to create something unique for the web.
The internet changes so fast, and I can’t help but feel that I’m missing something be producing similar pages over and over. Everything needs to be polished, and there’s no room for experimentation in the corporate world.
I love spending time with my sketchbook. And it’s something I do less and less at work. There’s no time to develop a bunch of different ideas, or fully realise a potential solution. It’s all about getting it done fast and close enough. There’s a running joke on the office whiteboard that I should “3/4 arse it” (a play on half-ass). I rarely get to wireframe out different concepts, or sketch up a totally wild idea.
The act of starting something new, from scratch, with no pre-conceived ideas is exhilarating. Pen to paper, even wire-framing has a magic to it.
Doing Creative Web Design… Again
I really do miss building things for the pure joy of having a website built. I miss experimenting with new techniques, and having permission to play with unconventional designs and layouts. Earlier this year I spoke about passion projects being one of my goals, and I think it’s time to do this and make some simple, yet creative, web designs.
I have a few ideas for a new passion project, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. What should my next creative web design be? Leave a comment with your idea!