Album Cover: First Impressions of Earth

"Don't be a coconut. God is trying to talk to you."
The Strokes / Ask Me Anything

Posted on June 03, 2004 7:32 PM in Web Design
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

If you're a web designer or web developer you've doubtless heard of people like Eric Meyer, Jeffrey Zeldman and probably even Dan Cederholm and Dave Shea. If you haven't, then you really should check out the links I've provided and check back when you're done.

The great thing about these guys is that not only are they masters of their craft, but they are teachers to all those who care about design and want to lengthen the reach of their abilities. I have a respect for anyone who can teach and teach well, because education runs in my family, and if I didn't end up going the way of the geek, I would have been a teacher myself. So when I see that someone has a gift for spreading knowledge to others, I gain a great deal of respect for them right off the bat.

I suppose I should share why I think these guys are such great teachers, since some might disagree. They don't necessarily need to be in front of a class or even sharing lessons online to be good teachers. The way many web designers learn their trade (and the way I learned it) is to observe the work of those who excel and process over time the mannerisms and techniques of those who truly know web design.

As far as I'm concerned, this is the way that art should affect and inspire people, whether it convinces them to try to reproduce something similar or not. Just as I'd much prefer look at how someone designed or coded a web page than to read their explanation of how they did it, I think artists should base their paintings on work they've seen and musicians should base their music on songs they've heard. I don't think Monet or Van Gogh should have spent their time pinpointing their stroke technique a la Bob Ross to teach their understudies (if they had any), and I think John Lennon taught a lot more through his work than he would have by giving guitar lessons or teaching the art of word play to a room full of aspiring songwriters.

Every now and then I'll see someone "over-teaching." What inspired me to blog on the subject tonight is a series of posts at mezzoblue (Dave Shea's personal website) outlining the work that went into a recent redesign of that particular site.

I have a lot of respect for Dave, because he has an undeniable knack for creativity and web design (see the Zen Garden if you don't believe me), but these recent posts just strike me as too much information. It may have something to do with the fact that I'm not a big fan of the new design, but I think it also just goes along with the idea that the people reading his site already know about CSS hacks and the common caveats of design. He may have a few web design beginners strolling through, but I strongly doubt the congregation is anywhere near the size of the choir.

The point of this whole long-winded story is, don't over-teach your trade. When people admire or are inspired by what you do, they will find ways to let it seep in...often times leading to superior or at least comparable results. Lead by example, but don't show anyone your hand. When you take the time to explain what you've done, you're wasting time that could be used to better yourself and enhance your skills.

I suppose, in closing, that I should add some sort of disclaimer. Often times I will post entries to my blog that explain how I did something or a technique I used to get over a technical hurdle. I don't see this as over-teaching because in most cases I'm just sharing a small piece of a very large puzzle. However, I'm fairly certain there are those out there who will strongly disagree with what I've said here (if they ever even read it). I guess it's hard to over-teach no matter how hard you try when no one wants to sit down and learn ;)


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