@Media 2007: Jason Santa-Maria – Diabolical Design: The Devil is in the details

Jason is a well known and influential designer working for Happy Cog, the studio run by Jeffrey Zeldman.

Zeldman is the author of Designing with Web Standards, a book that has been pivotal in the conversion of many designers from structuring pages with tables, to using standards compliant CSS layouts.

Jason’s design has had a stylistic impact on the look and feel of Web 2.0 sites; his use of organic and illustrative background images, combined with uncluttered typography with characteristic Serif font headings is universally replicated.

In this presentation he began by covering a few basic pre-style workflow steps. I currently use wireframe layouts, Jason suggested using a 12 column grid system as a starting point. Important Text and images can span columns but always fit within the lines of the grid. This is something I find difficult, at Edge Hill we often use movable type and a fluid layout; therefore column widths are measured with percentages and expand according to the size of the users monitor.

Additionally he uses Monochrome Wireframes that grade important elements of the page with darker shades. Blocks of strong colour create a connection with the user and help communicate the page’s function.

I found his tips on colour theory interesting, especially creating a colour palette from photographs using the eye dropper in Photoshop. Also choosing an image with a dominant colour and working it into the rest of the design was interesting. I think it is important to have an idea of which colours you are going to use before you progress from a wireframe, however I also know from experience that a scientific approach doesn’t lead to a perfect design, often an element of chance can push the design in a better direction.

The next section of the presentation was concerned with white space, or negative space, that is so important in defining typography. Jason cited the influence of Saul Bass whose typography and collages are seen in the opening credits of Psycho, The Man with the Golden Arm and Walk on the Wild Side. I have been a fan of Saul Bass for a long time and was pleased to hear that he continues to influence people working in a modern medium.

He finished with tips on typography, and the use of appropriate and contextually meaningful fonts.

I took a lot of inspiration and reassurance from the presentation. I feel that many of the approaches and theories that I learnt at Art College are still important in web design, and Jason confirmed this.

2 thoughts on “@Media 2007: Jason Santa-Maria – Diabolical Design: The Devil is in the details

  1. David Campbell

    Thanks for the great write-up, Sam. It is always interesting to hear what Happy Cog are doing. I particularly like the recommendation to use monochrome wireframes – I think people tend to forget the importance of visual contrast, not just in web design but also in logo design.

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