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April, 2006

The Oneness of Content and Context

Last night over drinks I got into a fairly interesting discussion about my feelings on design. I don't really feel like going into the whole thing because it sat on the edge of the "art vs. design" debate as well as the "what is design" question. But I did come to one conclusion that I found very interesting.

Eventually the conversation led to The Huffington Post and specifically the blog entry George Clooney posted, that turned out to actually be a bunch of quotes of his stuck together by Huffington. When people got upset, Huffington responded that "the medium isn't the message; the message is the message." Obviously I completely disagree with this and, to give her the benefit of the doubt, she later backed down from the statement and apologized.

In the case of Clooney's fake blog entry, you can't separate the content from the context. Yes, everything in the entry was really said by him, but not at once, not in a blog entry and not on the Huffington Post. All of that matters. Clooney saw the distinction, saying, "These are not my writings, they are answers to questions and there is a huge difference."

The reason there's a huge difference is because the medium is the message. The context around the information is equally important to the information it conveys. That's why I think I'm so drawn to design. It's the same idea. You are providing the context for the content and in the best case scenario, the two live together in a way that cannot be undone.

I don't think design is theoretical, I'm not all that interested in designers perspectives. Design, to me, is all about the user/reader/viewer/whateverer. Whatever they walk away with is what's been designed. If it's successful they walk away with your message and more. If it's not, they leave with a different impression than the one you may have hoped for. Neither content or context holds more weight at that point, all that matters is what's inside that person's head.

Does that make sense?

April 1, 2006
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