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.

No one is a pion­eer for the original

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.

The ana­tomy of a website

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.

You’re not Mr. Purple, you’re Mr Pink

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