Don’t Discount the Present

Occasionally there’s an piece of writing and thinking so full of interesting, smart, provocative thoughts that my screen is pretty much covered with highlighter.

Highlighting.-It-makes-a-mess-of-your-computer-screen

Web Design – the first 100 years‘, is such a piece. Why not click on the link, have a read, then come back here and let’s have a chat about it, OK? There’s a brief summary at the bottom of this post in case you can’t bear to leave this page.

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You *could* skip the history of aviation if you wanted to, but it’s both fun and interesting, so you might as well read the whole thing.

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Done? Oh you want to reread the bit about the experience of exponential growth leading us to discount the present? Can’t blame you.

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OK, so that was pretty good and interesting, right? Maciej Ceglowski is talking to an audience of web designers, but reading the piece it struck me that much of what he says is just as pertinent to the wider digital marketing community. To whit; our habit of discounting the present in favour of the bleeding edge. Our love of gratuitous change. A tendency to add features to turn an idea from good to great, instead of removing features that might simplify the complex.

Maybe Ceglowski’s boldest assertion is that the web of 2060 will look pretty much the same as the web of today. Arguably, that might be as good news for us digital creatives as Ceglowski says it is for his design audience.

And that’s because a good enough web is a wondrous place for brands to explore and play in. Ceglowski’s preferred vision of the web – (to connect knowledge, people and cats) – already ‘erases distance between people [and brands] and it puts all of human knowledge at our fingertips’. And, of course, it’s all made of cat GIFS. He describes this vision of the Internet as a humble one, saying that ‘on a planet of seven billion people and millions of cats, the chance that you are going to be able to think of all the best ideas is zero.’ For creatives, this should be fine. We don’t need to have all the best ideas – one per brief will do nicely.

The passage that most resonated with me was Ceglowski’s articulation of ‘exponential despair’ – ‘a restless sense of excitement we feel that something new may be just around the corner, bringing with it a hopelessness about whatever we are working on now, and a dread that we are missing out on the next big thing.’

There is always a need to fuel a creative agency with the newest thinking and doing out there on the world wild web. The technologies and behaviours that are shifting the paradigm for us and for our clients. But what I’ve taken from my highlighting of Web Design – the first 100 years is that constantly focussing on the horizon can cause us to wilfully miss the amazing things that are happening, or could be made to happen, right in front of our noses. The right here and the right now is a pretty amazing place to be.

Thanks for reading with me.

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*in case you didn’t read the piece (and more fool you if that’s the case), Ceglowski argues that, like the commercial aviation industry in 1960, the most dramatic transformation in internet technology has already happened. Dazzled by our experience of the last 20 years of exponential growth (Moore’s Law) we design for continued transformation at similar rates and scale. So instead of yearning for a techno-utopian future that might never happen we should accept that the web as it is, connecting knowledge, people and cats’ is both beautiful and good enough and we should enjoy it and not take it for granted.

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