What is classic web design?
It is web design that is enduring. Years from now it will still look appropriate, attractive and tasteful. The best way to develop classic web design style is to examine the history of other design disciplines. For example, in automobile design, the Jaguar XKE is an enduring classic. Although this design is over 40 years old, it breathes style without any apologies for its age. The lines of the vehicle satisfy the aesthetic sense of a modern generation in spite of its age. It is familiar, solid, with an enduring appeal that eschews gimmick, flash, and cheap tricks.
Another great icon of classic style in fashion is the Chanel suit. A woman knows that a vintage Chanel outfit can be twenty or thirty years old and still satisfy the discerning eye. Why? Because classic design employs time-tested elements of line, color, and form.
How to Acquire a Classic Web Design Vocabulary
Classic design requires a greater sense of visual literacy and insight. It also requires a degree of experience in life as classic design is the product of time, accumulated knowledge, and refinement. A person who can design in the classic sense has learned how to discard the faddish, ephemeral and gimmicky, preserving what is elegant, well chosen and tasteful.
What is the best way to develop a classic web design style? Study the work of the masters of classic design in other fields. The fashion, architecture, automobile and print design fields have established masters whose body of work can be studied.
Here are two of my favorite classic print designers that provide inspiration for my web design work:
Paul Rand (1914-1996) is one of the most influential figures in American graphic design. He explored the formal vocabulary of the European avant-garde art movements and developed a unique and distinctly American graphic style which was characterized by simplicity, wit and a rational approach to problem-solving. I find a timeless sense of layout and simplicity in his work. The principles behind his design work well on the Web.
Reid Miles was a prolific designer best known for designing almost 500 album covers for the Blue Note Jazz label in the 1960's. What I love about his work is the incredible emotion and style he could extract from a limited palette of type and color. He created a sense of "cool" style that defined the Blue Note Jazz label as much as the music.
Use Classic Inspiration In Your Web Design!
The website below is a recent design we developed using classic design cues to create a timeless, stylish look. In your quest for classic design style, look to the old masters for inspiration. Use the web, libraries, and museums to study. Borrow from the vocabulary of great architecture, fashion and print designers. Train your eye to distinguish quality. As your knowledge grows, so will the quality of your web design. -Don Peterson, Freelance Web Designer, New York City