Yesterday while walking around outside, I was glancing at some beautiful homes in the area and I was struck by the fact that homes are an accumulation of small pieces combined together to form something wonderful. And even more so, what goes in those homes follows this same principle. We usually fill our homes with things that we’ve collected over the years that define who we are and what’s meaningful in our lives.
Now this morning while playing with our spastic cat Sam (who wakes us in the early hours of the morn because he wants to play), I remembered a book on our living room bookshelf that touched upon this subject of what you put into your home and how best to design its placement. The book is entitled Meditations on Design, Reinventing Your Home with Style and Simplicity, by John Wheatman and when I flipped through the first few pages of the book, I realized what had pulled me back to it when I reread the following.
If you point to a picture in a magazine and say, "I want this for my home," you have skipped over the most important phase of the design process. You must go beyond how your room looks and begin to analyze who you are and how you use that room. Only when you’ve figured out how to be comfortable doing the things you do in that space can you move on to the question of how it should look.
So why bring up something like this about home design? Because I think everything is interconnected. Design is design. It has basic fundamental elements to it, that with each day, I’m realizing are integrated into so many things around us (i.e. permaculture is all about design). Therefore when I read the above, it mirrored many of the thoughts and struggles I’ve been having with designing the structure of my own site. What hit home for me was the emphasis on "how you use that room". I’m struggling to take that emphasis and apply it to my own site by trying to focus more on how I want my site to function than how I want it to look. It’s the old saying of "form follows function".
A paragraph or two later, the book also describes the following.
Similarly I have often encountered the notion that interior design consists of essentially casting out what you have and buying everything new. In fact, some of my most satisfying projects have not involved the purchase of any additional furnishings. I always begin by editing what is already in place. I help people discard the items that don’t work and organize the ones that remain so everything comes together and makes sense — functionally, visually, and financially. Sometimes that’s all that’s necessary.
Again this really hit home for me because I believe the same thing about blogs. I have this very strong feeling that we don’t really need any new fancy Web 2.0 applications to making blogging better. We just need a better design, placement, and structure of our "existing" content to make it more accessible and usable to us. I mean right now, when you write something, it’s pretty much off your radar in a week or two unless it’s getting a lot of attention and you revisit it frequently. That’s because your content is displayed in a chronological order. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I just think that we need other better designed views to help evolve blogging to something more than a steady stream of words.
Giving a quick example of what I mean, visualize two bookshelves in front of you. The left bookshelf is organized chronologically with your oldest books at the bottom and your newest books at the top. What do you see? Probably a bookshelf with a jumble of books on it. Now visualize the right bookshelf in which you’ve organized your books in a variety of different ways. You may have your favorite books on one shelf that is in easy reach because you use them quite frequently. On other shelves, books are not only grouped by category but they may be sorted in height, largest to smallest. Even then, the few books of that particular category that are you favorite, you may want to lay on their side so that they stand out and are emphasized compared to the others on that shelf.
Now finally ask yourself which bookshelf would you want in your home? I’d take the right one any day. Not only is it more visually appealing to the eye but it makes it much easier to access the books you need. In addition, it also highlights the books that are the most meaningful to you to others that visit your home. This is exactly the thing I’m striving for in designing my site through the proper placement and structuring of my content. Again how best to do this on a website though is the thing that I’m struggling and experimenting with as well.
Finally in closing, I think this last quote from the opening chapter of the book exemplifies my desire for designing a site that is flexible above all else, so that it can easily change as I change. As is known, what we may be today, may not be what we are tomorrow.
Finally, people often come to me with the expectation that we will "do" their homes together and then the job will be "done". But who you are and what you want to say about yourself is continually changing. How you live and what you can afford also changes over time: You start a family, or your children grow up and leave to live on their own; you take up a new hobby or develop a new collecting interest. A good home changes and evolves with you — a good home is never done.