A Lasting Canvas for Digital Design

“If you do it right, it will last forever.” -Massimo Vignelli

As a web designer, I find myself often longing for some stability. When building a website, there are a ton of unknowns, the likes of which simply don’t exist in print.

For example, if you’re designing layouts for a magazine, you know what size the page will be. Many magazines last for decades without ever changing their publication’s size, and you know that if you go back and look at a print layout you made ten years ago, it will look the same.

That’s simply not the case in web design. While designs that we made seven years ago may still work fine, they don’t look “right” on a modern computer. The ones that use Flash won’t show up on my mobile devices at all, in fact. But on my desktop, display sizes have changed, and even the type of display that we use has changed, so they don’t really look like they did when we made them. They look odd.

This isn’t true for all types of digital design. There’s a revival of old video games that now have emulators that let you run them just like you once could – the same aspect ratio, the same speed… some even emulate the fuzziness of old CRT displays. This is a very satisfying experience, and gives me hope for the staying power of the design of these things.

When it comes to the iPhone, I am beginning to feel that we have a canvas we can trust to create something more permanent. Since its release in June of 2007, the display has changed a bit, but the 1:1.5 aspect ratio never has. In fact, most of the apps written back in 2008 (when it was first possible to do so) run perfectly well on my iPhone 4. This is attractive to me as a designer because you start to feel that Apple really wants to stick with this, and if you design something for it, you may very well be able to enjoy it for a long time from now.

(For an example of computer-based design that “lasts,” check out this video of a new iPad app that lets you run classic Atari games.)

Raymond Brigleb

Creative Director, dreamer, partner, father, musician, photographer. Has been known to ride the rails. Pulls one heck of a shot.