What makes web design unique among the rest of the design disciplines?

Ronald Mendez
Jul 3, 2017 · 3 min read

Just as many colleagues and people from the creative industry did, I decided to check out Abstract: The Art of Design, the new documentary series. I have to say some of the episodes really inspired me, so I took on the whole series in a couple of days.

*I originally wrote this post on February 2017, but I was waiting to see one pending episode of the show before publishing. I guess I’m pleading “better late than never”.

The discipline breakdown

During my binge, I noticed that even though all of the disciplines share principles and goals, every process was unique. Trying to picture it in a more logic way, I broke down the disciplines in three different groups.

  1. Design of physical products or spaces

These were those disciplines in which the designer has a highly creative vision, takes it to a digital (or paper) format so that it could be built or manufactured. The design is the process right in between the idea and the physical creation.

Footwear design, architecture, and automotive design were exciting to discover since we are used to seeing the end results in our daily life, but this time we got a peek into the process.

2. Design as a final product

In the documentary, graphic design was the only discipline in this category that was explored. What made it stand out is that in many cases the format in which the designer works is the actual product that makes it to the public.

Graphic design is not a blueprint for a product, it is the product. So, in this case, we see that the final product is often in a digital format.

3. Design as a form of art

In my perception, illustration and photography can be defined more as an art process instead of a design process.

In the case of illustration, I believe there was a phase of design (when the illustrations became magazine covers), but separate from the process we were focusing on.

The photography episode was even more clear to me. It was pure art. I honestly believe that no actual design process was witnessed.

Where do we leave web design?

Even though the series didn’t cover the design discipline that I have come to love, I thought it would be a good idea to see in which category it would fall. To my surprise, it didn’t entirely match any of the categories.

A web designer puts together visual digital products, which are later created (all over again) with a different set of tools.

From this point of view, it would be similar to graphic design since the final product is digital. But the main difference is that the final product, though digital, is crafted by a non-designer: Cue the lights. Drumroll. Enters the web developer.

So what’s wrong with that? Nothing. Just that it puts web design into a unique category in which a design is handed off, but the other party puts together a digital product as well.

That is perhaps one of the reasons why web design has the potential to be so magical. It’s a discipline that combines teams of opposing talents, that come together to create digital greatness.

This has allowed the industry to grow and evolve at such a pace, that every year we see our expectations exceeded in a scary way.


Although there is still much room for improvement (more on that later), I leave you with a list of my personal favorite projects in which design and development have come together to simply wow the world:

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Ronald Mendez

Written by

Frontend Lead at MediaMonks & judge at The FWA

MediaMonks

We turn ideas, strategy and IP into award-winning campaigns, film, content, products and platforms.

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