A Change
Jan 27 2013

In my portfolio of the past, which I made a year and a half ago, I said:

Something is at the crossroad of architecture, cartography and art, which I studied. And I am seeing it more clearly everyday.

I have kept this portfolio as its own entity - an archive - because it portrays my state of mind to a certain point, namely, to the day before I started working. It encapsulates my ambition and outlook based on what I knew and believed throughout four years of liberal arts education, and even vague, broad, subconscious ideas from my childhood. But what I knew and believed was very little - as I soon realized - I was but starting to learn.

What this “something” has become is still in lack of articulation, not because I have walked too far, or lost faith in what I do, but because the world has grown larger on me. I have embraced difference that I never planned to encounter. With new knowledge and capabilities, I say once more what I was trying to say:

Something is originating from the understanding and practice of the design process of architecture. This kernel of knowledge - this mode of learning, researching and discovering - is being applied to every realm with which I engage.

I am no longer seeing it as a definite answer, a distant object towards which I am walking; it is not static nor shapely. And in fact, I no longer see but can only feel it engrained with what I do everyday.

There is a shift from the what to the how. What I do everyday now is website design, more specifically, websites that make information more accessible. The making is hours and hours of not knowing, of the desire to materialize the unknown in code. It is constructing a model with a new language that manifests as a surface, the screen.

To quote someone I could not remember, possibly a tweet I saw one morning, “the object is useless without the user.” Site and audience are the fundamental premises that shape the design problem in an architecture studio. The design of a website, like that of a building, goes through the same constraints and produces something that speaks to and for those who are using it. It should be intuitive, although intuition might not be the best way to describe a user interface. What a website does, to some degree, is to push the envelope of intuition by introducing new ways of learning and seeing, by revealing something that leads to the aha moment - a possible happiness and enlightenment.

I was offered a piece of advice (or rather, an observation) when I first started making websites. You need to get into the craftsmanship. I have been gnawing on these words. It has meant different things as I learn more. It is not just clean javascript, clean css, clean everything. It is not just elegance in code (although I know I am still thousands of lines away from elegance itself.) It is not even just the seek of excellence.

The will, the practice, the perseverance - they are all one part of the craft. Knowing how to do something is not enough. Doing it is not enough. Doing it over and again until the best methods have been tried and proven (or discarded) is probably just the beginning of a crafts(wo)manship.

My will is simple and firm. It is a result from the motivation to learn and make good things. My perseverance is taking time, as it should, with the merge, commit, push and pull I type in my terminal. Regarding my emerging practice, I know one thing for sure, that crafts(wo)manship in website design is never about style. Using the metaphor of a building, it is not about the facades, nor the pursuit of form. Rather, to paraphrase Eames, we are constrained by what is available at the moment of creation - technology, money, time, the ephemeral design for ephemeral needs. By that it doesn’t mean that design is transient. Only the product and the style it alludes to, are.