In 1992, Quentin Tarantino released the film Reservoir Dogs. It was a film that was to gross over $147,000 in its first week alone in the US and went on to become the defining film — not only of Tarantino’s career to date — but to a new generation of cinema and movie goers alike.
What people often don’t know about Reservoir Dogs is that, as a stand alone piece of cinema, it is far cry from being totally original. The plot is more or less based on Kansas City Confidential a 1952 movie about a failed bank heist. The iconic ‘ear’ scene is inspired by Joseph Lewis' Big Combo.
The naming of characters after colours mirrors that of The Taking of Pelham 123. Then there’s the prevalence of the Sergio Leone style edits, soundtracks lifted from the 50's, 60's and 70's, and don’t forget the trademark ‘Trunk Shot’.
Tarrantino isn’t alone in this. Terry Gilliam’s 1995 film 12 monkeys was based on Chris Marker’s 1962 short film La Jetée , a film created from only photographs. Run Lola Run holds striking comparisons to Blind Chance. You could even argue that Ridley Scott’s Gladiator is a Hollywood spin on Shakesphere’s ‘Scottish Play’.
Film makers reference and learn from the past in the same way all culture does. Musicians. Artists. Photographers. Architects. Linguists and Scholars all forge their voice based on what has gone before. This is nothing new — it’s quintessentially human.
We often like to believe as web designers we’re pioneers, forging out a landscape on the new frontier in a brave new era. Truth is, there isn’t a single thing we’ve done that is one hundred percent original. From the minute we first put pen to paper with considered approach we were drawing upon a learned experience, whether we knew it or not.
Just because — in relative terms — we work within a new medium does not mean what we’re creating is in anyway new or original. Our technology may still be emerging and growing, but the principles that underpin everything we do are the product of decades of process and practice.
Just as Tarrantino applies a learned narrative drawn from Spaghetti Westerns and Blaxploitation movies, we as web designers draw from the narrative of prose, film, graphic design, technology & popular culture. We exist between worlds, drawing from all sides. Neither graphic or interaction designer should we solely be. We’re the epitome of Hybrid. When we design for the screen, we’re engaging disciplines forged from many sources. It’s just how we roll baby.
Think about what a website is. It’s not a book, yet it has type. It’s not art, yet it can have artistic merit. It’s not tangible, yet it has value. It’s not a story, yet it has narrative. It’s not a map, yet it requires navigating. As their designers we’re charged with the task of being a Typesetter, Artisan, Story teller and Architect.
We’re charged with understanding the psychology of colour, the importance of data hierarchy, the intricacies of accessible content for disability and impaired senses, the importance of meter, tracking, leading and choice of type for on screen reading. Websites are not a discipline in singularity, they are a meeting of many. A trivium of language, media and technology.
For me, the best professionals understand their medium at a deep level. They embrace its history to shape its future. They’re pioneers not of originality, but of progress, breathing modernity into the very bones of their subject, re-envisioning it in a new light. To truly understand something, you should never stop learning from it, as it’s this very process that allows us to grow as a professional, and in turn shape future generations of what you do today.
You’re not Mr. Purple. You’re Mr. Pink. Keep adding blue daily.
We’re the epitome of Hybrid. When we design for the screen, we’re engaging disciplines forged from many sources. It’s just how we roll baby