The Design Hinterlands

2 August 2006

I’ve found a community I want to join! It’s the growing creative class in Memphis.

Memphis would not make anyone’s list of global centers of design excellence in any field, much less web design. In fact, Memphis is probably one of those places where the nephew’s FrontPage site is good enough for eight out of ten small businesses (i.e. fewer than 50 employees). Memphis is a place where price always trumps any other criteria for purchasing anything.

A few of the weblogs written by people in this area actually strive for valid (X)HTML mark-up. Many of them are excellent political, lifestyle or gossip blogs. Apparently, there’s even a gathering of bloggers from time to time. However, there isn’t a great deal of discussion—that I’ve been able to locate—involving web standards, design tools and techniques or sites free of tables and spacer gifs.

Perhaps that is changing! Our local fish wrap ran an article this weekend about tech firms that use blogs to connect with others. The article specifically mentioned the following blogs, firms and people in Memphis:

Weblogs I read are written by people who are hitting all the latest conferences for the best and brightest. While those conference attendees are looking at next-generation technologies and techniques, Memphis wrestles with how to become one of the so-called Smart Cities.

Contrary to popular notions, some of the leaders of the march to creativity in Memphis are not twenty-something. Rather, there is a blend of leaders who have caught the vision that Richard Florida has described for urban centers along with the young creatives who are actually getting it done. The beauty of this blend is that it isn’t limited to specific age, gender or other demographic data. Those with a willingness to grasp the ideas can drive the growth of and focus on creativity.

There appears to be a practical side to all of this as well. People who are leading the efforts here are profit-minded capitalists who have recognized a better way of providing products and services to customers. They understand what Jeff Cornwall explains in Revisiting Self-Interest. Whether one sees self-interest from the perspective of the designer or the designer’s client, the rewards are congruent.

Take web sites as the example. The hierarchy of enlightened web design creativity looks something like this:

  1. Creatives using standards-based design for all their work.
  2. Web site designers who found a tool and use it free of any concern for web standards.
  3. Ad agencies who added a web site design department without understanding the medium.
  4. The nieces and nephews with a copy of FrontPage or Dreamweaver.

Each of these groups is creative. Each of these groups makes a (handsome) living. However, only one of the groups is fostering the growth of their businesses, growing their clients’ businesses and leading a community to see creativity, design and the role of standards in a completely different way. That’s a community I want to join!

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  1. Justin Palmer    8 August 2006, 16:40    #