In a trendy backyard just a stone’s throw from one of Oslo’s most hectic shopping streets, you find Heydays. By many considered to be one of the most exciting studios in Norway, and already on their way to international fame. Here I have agreed to meet at 14:30 on a Friday, to have a chat about webdesign. A little nervous I admit, but most excited. After a nice warm welcome, we hit the sofa, while Heydays friday playlist #62 pumps out of the speakers. Hip design publications is nicely aligned on the table. I go straight to the point.
Kim Andre Ottesen: In the creative process, when do you start thinking about webdesign?
Lars Kjelsnes: Probably, most often, quite early in the process. But usually after the general concept.
K: General concept? As in a strategic analysis?
L: Depends from project to project, either a strategic concept or a concept which says more about the identity itself, or the things that is to be designed. We don’t think web or digital so early, it comes in the second tier, along with print and stuff like that. But it is becoming increasingly important to think about the web early in the process.
If you are a good designer, you must be able to design for all surfaces.
K: So, how do you embrace the possibillities in web design, in terms of web design that adapts to different devices?
L: In contrary to many other web designers out there, we do perhaps have a more “down to the bone” type of approach to web design, and attemps to make use of the limitations, for example in terms of colors and typography. We embrace as much as possible the details that make web design responsive. From that it’s fully scalable from small to large resolutions with modular grid systems to jQuery animations. All the little things that make web design in some way feel more tactile – that it’s not only graphics.
K: Yeah, like that you don’t just make a print design and publish it online.
L: We try as much as we can to detach ourselves from print design, except that we try to put ourselves constraints also on the web – where you literally can do whatever you want in terms of techniques. Often print design is limitied because we want to stick to Pantone colors for example, and we are perhaps inspired by the way we do print design when we are working with the web. But it stops there, the web is a bit it’s own thing, and we may want a separate concept for the Web.
K: Some graphic designers have expressed that they do not take web design as seriously as traditional graphic design. What do you think is causing this?
L: Probably if you don’t keep up with the changes in the industry. If you look at those who where really good in the 80s and 90s, and before that, you see that they have awful websites themselves. It’s much about that you don’t keep up with what’s new. If you are a good designer, you must be able to design for all surfaces. You have to see how important the web is, and update yourself. It’s about not managing to get out of the print based mindset. Print and web are two different worlds, and one have to get into thinking completely unison from business cards to web.
K: In an other interview I conducted, a traditional graphic designer said that web design acted too much on technology, and that there is too few good web sites that the web could be seen as good as printed media.
K: Yeah, I’ll have a cup, thanks.
L: Yes, hehe. You have to follow the technology, at least in part, to engage in web design. Basically, you don’t need to know anything more about technology than to understand it in general. You can always provide flat files and have it programmed by the best people.
K: One of the major benefits of web design in relation to print design is that it can be responsive, that the designs adapts to the device it is displayed.
L: That’s what starts to get really cool now, we have perhaps only seen the start of. And especially with new phones, perhaps most interesting iPhone and iPad because it’s so widespread. Now you can almost tell what screen sizes you have to adapt to, and it becomes more interesting to design something that works on all surfaces, from 30 inces and down to less than 4 inches. You have to acknowledge that there is an extremely wide range of users and devices that will see and use the design.
K: Yeah, I see this in some of your projects, for example the website of LK Hjelle. But there you have a special version for iPhone?
Lars, Martin and Mathias: There is a separate CSS for iPhone, which focuses on the essentials - like to browse through all the furniture. (And to read the cards on the company), and easily obtain information. It is basically a simplified version, which is stripped of jQuery and everything fancy. But it's the same code base, the same backend, so everything is just formatted correctly for the device it is displayed.
L: We’ve made a lot of Flash pages before it was dead, and lately we’ve created specific HTML versions which extracts the content from the backend system to create a iPhone-version. Not the optimal solution maybe, but that’s what happens when there isn’t enough resources available.
Kim Andre: Just quicly back to LK Hjelle, it’s a flexible layout. Since the sketches in Photshop are static, how do you relate to the flexible layout in the design process?
Lars: It’s primarily a grid. You have to create a grid which can stack the columns on top of each other. But for the iPhone you sholud make a new sketch. Although you come a long way with a flexible grid that can drop columns and make the images scale with the columns.
Mathias: Some decisions have to be taken during the programming as well. Before it was easier to get a one to one relationship from Photoshop and Illustrator to a functional website. The scaling was much simpler. Now there are no limitations on what’s possible to do, it’s just a matter of how you do it. And having to deal with handheld devices, although some customers do not want to pay for it to be adapted to all possible surfaces.
Therefore it is important to create something from the beginning which will scale down well. Not every project we have engaged in does that, but again it depends on the budget. There are many factors to consider today. But it has much to do with experience, when you are sitting in Photoshop or Illustrator you have to understand how things relate to each other, and what is possible. Also, we have Martin who are more technical than us, and we tend to ask him: “does this make sense?”.
Lars: And we do often use the same grid, so we know how it works.
Kim Andre: Okey. I’m asking also because my magazine will not be printed, it will be a responsive web magazine, which in itself expresses some of what I want to tell and to explore.
Kim Andre: So, that was my questions. Thank you!
Lars: You’re welcome!