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Roger Black
April 24, 2000 2:21 PM   Subscribe

Roger Black shows just how little he knows about the web. Favorite inflammatory quotes:

"There's hardly any good work on the Internet at all."
"There isn't an Internet community anymore."
"I don't think print and the Web are all that different."
"I think the Internet is not a venue for storytelling."

It's too bad Adobe is giving voice (in web and print) to someone so clueless.
posted by fraying (56 comments total)

 
I love how the splash page at adobe has his stupid "red, black, and white are the only colors you should use" rule in full effect
posted by mathowie at 2:31 PM on April 24, 2000


Ever since I went on an Interview at Interactive Bureau SF and they gave me the whole Roger Black story and I got to meet him I thought he was an idiot. Stick to print Roger you have no clue!
posted by bvanveen at 2:35 PM on April 24, 2000


Has this man actually ever spent ANY time on the web? Recently?

posted by prolific at 2:49 PM on April 24, 2000


I used to work in Discovery Channel's webdivision (which Mr. Black's company is responsable for), and let me tell you it sucked. The backend was unreliable the IA and usability were not to be found and the design is/was not suited to the audience. Definetly lacking a clue, this man.
posted by Mick at 2:49 PM on April 24, 2000


I have Roger Black's web design book "Web Sites That Work". I got it on clearance for $2. That's about what it's worth. It's mostly quotes from people at Interactive Bureau talking about how great and groundbreaking Roger Black is.

I can't believe anyone could take his advice seriously. Only use black, white and red? WHY? That's the kind of advice that makes economic sense for print but has no relevance to the Web where you don't have to pay for paper and inks.

If you've ever spent a really long time reading something online, you know that white screens actually start to hurt your eyes after an hour or so because the monitor is shooting light out to create that white background. It's like looking into a low-watt bulb. The white-on-blue scheme here is much more soothing to the eye and it's got plenty of contrast. I'm looking forward to the day that online magazine sites realize that and quit using white backgrounds. As it is, I have to turn down the brightness of my monitor when I'm reading long articles online.

I mostly consult Black's book for amusement, and occasionally look at it when I'm working on print stuff. I definitely wouldn't listen to him when it comes to the web.
posted by wiremommy at 2:59 PM on April 24, 2000


Hey, if Derek has beef with Roger Whats-his-fruit, then _I_ have beef with Whats-his-fruit.
posted by furled at 3:03 PM on April 24, 2000


Roger Black? Who's Roger Black? ;-)
posted by scottandrew at 3:09 PM on April 24, 2000


I must add that this quote is particularly telling:

BLack: "A site may be hip, it may be cool, it may be beautiful, but is it effective, is it productive, is it communicating what it's supposed to communicate? Those are the kinds of questions the judges ask. I don't know if the people who are voting for the People's Voice awards have the same criteria - sometimes it's just their favorite Web site."

Don't you think it's their favorite Web site BECAUSE it's effective, productive, and communicates what it's supposed to communicate? I mean, if it's their favorite site it's because the site COMMUNICATES something worthwhile to them, right?

I think Black's definition of "what it's supposed to communicate" is his own values reflected back at him.
posted by wiremommy at 3:09 PM on April 24, 2000


heh. I reviewed his book (fifth one up from the bottom, titled "not very good sites in this book") at Amazon after paying the full $45 for it.
posted by mathowie at 3:17 PM on April 24, 2000


The work he is most proud of?
MSNBC

Which, to my non designer eye, is the most convoluted, confusing looking site I have seen in a long time. Go look. Laugh. Tell me I am wrong.
posted by sperare at 3:21 PM on April 24, 2000


Design is everywhere. Different mediums produce different methods of communicaiton. So if this guy doesn't get the web, then he shouldn't be involved in it. Or he should try to learn. Same with architecture, or film, or any creative medium. Everyone's a critic until it's them under the lights.
posted by eljuanbobo at 3:31 PM on April 24, 2000


Ohhh. Roger Black. That oh-so-bored-with-it-all designer guy who thinks he knows everything about the web? Yeah, I read his book, and wondered how the heck this guy became "as close to a rock star as you're likely to meet in the design world."



I get the sense that he's grumpy because the Internet has become such an open medium. Anyone can publish, anyone can blog, and users control the experience. And you don't have to be some art-house elitist or cynical pundit to gain an audience.



If he's a rock star, I'm Chris Isaak.
posted by scottandrew at 3:46 PM on April 24, 2000



I never heard of Roger Black before this...I wonder why?
posted by tomcosgrave at 3:56 PM on April 24, 2000


Oh good god. He's not serious is he? What a clueless know-it-all. The worst kind...
posted by ariel at 4:05 PM on April 24, 2000


I've pretty much thought this guy was an idiot ever since I flipped through his book at the bookstore one day a couple of years ago. What a self-aggrandizing piece of drivel. His attitude seems to be either you agree with his outdated beliefs, or you're an inept boob.

Who exactly is impressed by his resume of designing for mainstream corporate entities? Mainstream corporate suits, that's who.

I'm no designer, but red, black and white? C'mon. Like wiremommy said, light type on a dark background is just plain easier on the eyes than the same old black. Someone should alert Rog to the fact that computer monitors actually have different characteristics than sheets of paper.

I mean, MSNBC? Puh-leez!

Sorry about the logn rant. High levels of pomposity just get my goat.
posted by erimfoster at 4:13 PM on April 24, 2000


How could someone ever be considered a design rock-star??

What, does Black get hounded by scores of buxom design groupies, whispering lustfully in his ear "ooh, you big bad designer you...I just loooved your camouflage-themed spread on page 32 of Guns and Ammo Monthly...ohhh...take me right now!"

Does he parade through hotel lobbies half coked-up with three women on each arm yelling "yeah that's right! I did both the copy AND the layout for the Healthy Living Magazine's Top Ten Influential Herbal Remedies of the Year issue! Bow down to my bad ass design sense!"

Give me a break. There is no cross-pollenation between the world of print design and the world of rock star craziness. If there is, there shouldn't be.

If Black is a rock star, then I am Keith Richards, for chrissakes.
posted by Succa at 4:51 PM on April 24, 2000


I think Roger needs to check out fray & various other sites on the net, atleast after that he will finally realize that he is working in the wrong media.
posted by riffola at 4:55 PM on April 24, 2000


Hey, what's black and white and red/read all over? (sorry couldn't help myself)...

There are a lot of examples of good black/white/red design, Bodyflash.com and bacardi.com are the first couple of examples that come to mind.

but if the whole web looked like that? Yuk. Perhaps I did take that whole "red, white, and black" thing out of context, but it was the only message I could memorably extract from the aforementioned book. But, I did think that I was alone in thinking this dude was a jerk, I guess I know better now.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 5:22 PM on April 24, 2000


Unfortunatly I see people act like this all the time. Now, I have nothing against people who do print work at all. I could never do it, but I don't go around telling people in the print world to apply web techniques to their work. So why do all the print people I know who have no web knowledge feel they need to force all their design techniques onto me? Especially techniques I know don't work?

Black needs to get off his high horse. He's probably pissed because he's on the out, and has worked so hard in the print realm and sees 19 year old kids pushing the design medium on the web instead of him. Jealous Roger?
posted by vitaflo at 5:23 PM on April 24, 2000


if I was in a different mood today, I guess his comments would entirely piss me off.

on certain days things just zoom in, and I get so frustrated and angry that people say and write such hideously mean and false things. things like:

--women just aren't as good as men at (thinking, computers, science, writing, etc, etc, etc)
--there is no global warming going on/there is global warming, but it's a really good thing
--white men are being discriminated against by women and minorities all over the place
--etc, etc, etc

on certain days, those kinds of statements just send me over the top--someone believes them!

but I'm not in that mood, and what he says is so patently wrong that it doesn't bother me a bit.

maybe it's a half-empty, half-full thing. most of what's on the web isn't *great* (especially when your view of the web is limited to mainly commercial sites), but there is lots and lots that is wonderful. you could say the same about any medium: film, writing, magazine design, clothes design, music, architecture.

he's a goob. an arrogant goob. and to anyone who cares about the web, what he says is utter nonsense.

design 'artisan.' oh my. oh my yes.

rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 5:35 PM on April 24, 2000


Disclaimer: I'm just a content guy. One look at my site should convince anybody of that. So what do I know about being a design god, anyway? What does one look like? Do you have to feed a sacrfice to the volcano every year? I dunno.

But I apparently spend my online time other places than Roger Black does. No community? He's never been here, obviously. Or the other discussion forum I really spend my time at, where everyone knows exactly how full of it I really am....

I actually agree with him on one thing: it's hard to get past the surface of the web to the deeper content. Obviously he hasn't. It bugs me to see the very things, every day, that he says aren't there. Bad form, sir.
posted by mrmorgan at 8:05 PM on April 24, 2000


It's not the dismissiveness that bugs me, it's the very idea that someone at Adobe or some such Web design-related think tank is listening to that crap. Roger Black has designed some of the most hideously boring, lifeless, imagination-impaired, brain-dead Web work in the short history of the medium. Authority, my ass. I grind my teeth just thinking about it.

What I lack in code skills I like to think I at least make up for in witty repartee, but he doesn't even have THAT going for him. Someone make him go away before he does any real and lasting damage...
posted by skintrade at 8:23 PM on April 24, 2000


He should stick to the 400 metres and motivational speaking.

oh. you mean there's some other Roger Black I haven't heard of?
posted by holgate at 8:45 PM on April 24, 2000


A Rock Star? Obviously, someone has confused him with Ben Brown!
posted by sperare at 8:59 PM on April 24, 2000


the whole red and black thing hardly deserves mention - except that it's ironic that one of my company's (not mine mine, the one I work for) sites is entirely red white and black. But it's for cardiologists - so it makes sense in that particular context.

On more important matters, I thought only Carl and maybe Chank were real rockstars?!?
posted by mikel at 9:05 PM on April 24, 2000


Oh - my own disclaimer - I referenced my own site as an example of crappy design. I work with designers - which to me means backing off and letting them to their job within only broad, consensually arrived-upon constraints.
posted by mikel at 9:09 PM on April 24, 2000


Mmm. Chank. I haven't thought him for a while. Apparently, Fucker 2.0 is coming soon.
posted by sylloge at 10:42 PM on April 24, 2000


God Bless Roger Black.

Roger was an important print art director in the 1970s. A lot of magazine design and CD design is influenced by what he did back then.

I don't know why he lectures on the web - he doesn't really work in it, even if his company sometimes develops sites - and I'm not sure why people give much credence to his web theories (since he doesn't really work in the medium). But people coming from a print background tend to hire him a lot.

Perhaps it is simply a reassuring voice from the past, helping them make sense of a world they are not comfortable with.

And, you know, lecturers have to keep up with the hot topics. Nature of the gig.

I have respect for his achievements in print design.

If Frank Capra or Orson Welles were around today, they might hate music videos, and it would be okay if they voiced that opinion. We don't have to agree with it.

It's a big web. Anyone can publish anything. Where I differ with Derek is that I don't care what other people say or publish on the web. I can learn from it or not, love it or hate it. I'm glad the web is that way.

Adobe is free to publish what they want. It's okay. Obviously they publish some superfine opinions ;) as well as those with which I disagree.

With sincere respect for my friend's opinions, *my* opinion is that we should not let our passion for the medium or our belief in its values cross over into political correctness. There is room for all, and there must be - otherwise this thing becomes some small group's private playground. And even if I like that small group and share many of their values, this thing is too big for any one opinion or viewpoint to rule.

What worries me are the companies that control the browser and the delivery systems. I think they are worth watching.

A traditional art director dismisses the web? So what?
posted by Zeldman at 11:09 PM on April 24, 2000


Well, no matter what Roger Black (whoever he is) thinks he's not in control over what happens on the web. And it's much easier to make your own website than it is to put out a zine. You only have to make one website and any number of people can look at it.

And because there are so many possibilities, web design will be something that won't have to conform to rigid standards. But like anything, people will be attracted to the sites that both look nice and have content that keeps them coming back. If every site is red white and black, you can guarantee that I am going to take a good look at a yellow one.

So you guys can wish for a lot of people to take his advice so that you can stand out as the innovators who make something beautiful and noteworthy and become the sleeper hits of the web (or already have become).

What I mean is, don't worry about what some crusty old fool says. What's nice to look at and interesting to read will still be so no matter how much he says it's not, and the people will come and look at it and read it.
posted by horncat at 11:38 PM on April 24, 2000


I guess I'm not up on this Internet people as much as some people, but before Derek's reference I had never heard of Roger Black. It's like he's trying to come across as an aloof SOB, disrespectful of the Internet design community. Also, it sounded like a ripoff of Ben Brown to intoduce Black as "as close to a rock star as you're likely to meet in the design world." Baloney!
posted by grin at 12:33 AM on April 25, 2000


Before we go lighting our torches and running off to storm Castle Blackenstein, it might behoove us to look a little more closely at a couple of points he made in his interview. Frankly, I didn't think anything he said was that inflammatory -- or earth-shattering.

"There's hardly any good work on the Internet at all." What's wrong with that statement? It's the truth. Black isn't talking about the 1-2% of websites that we all frequent. He's talking about the whole of the Web. And he's right. For every Powazek out there, there are at least 100 pages like this. There really isn't that much good work out there, if you look at the entire body of websites on the net.

"There isn't an Internet community anymore." Okay, a little harsh on the face of it, but look at the rest of what he said: "There are individual Internet communities but we really don't know each other." Is this untrue? It's certainly in line with my own experience. All Black is saying here is that so many people are online now that there is no longer a sense of a single "internet community," but rather many communities, which may not even be aware of one another. Nothing too groundbreaking here, but certainly nothing to get upset about.

"I don't think print and the Web are all that different." Context, context. Here's a fuller quote: "I don't think print and the Web are all that different in terms of communication. On the gut level we're still talking about words and letters and pictures." [Emphasis mine.] Again, all true enough. Sure, the Web organizes the information differently, but it's still presented in the form of words and images. Note that he didn't equate the two, just said that they came from the same basic foundation.

"I think the Internet is not a venue for storytelling." Again, finish the quote: "...FOR THE MOST PART." He's not saying the Web can't or shouldn't be used as a medium for storytelling. He's just saying that it's not primarily suited for it. Which, frankly, given the current state of technology, is all too true. The Web hasn't yet evolved to the point where it's ideally suited to narrative (especially longer narrative) in the way print is. For the most part, it's still a situation where authors make the best of a severely limited medium.

Now, the comment that I personally thought was more potentially offensive than anything else he said, though no one else seems to think so, is his assertion that "I also think it's important that you do design for broadband and many people aren't." I guess this explains why his CNBC site loads like molasses over my cable modem connection. I wish I lived in Black's universe, where everyone seems to have T1 and faster connections, but in my world, I'm the only one of my friends and family who connects at faster than 56k. Sure, at some point the majority of net users will be on high speed connections, but not yet, and as of April 2000 I think it's still premature to be designing for broadband speeds if your site is aimed at a general audience.

Other than that...I agree with his peeves about small type (if you must, at least make it resizable) and designers who assume that you're only looking at their site. As for the infamous "red/black/white" concept...from what I recall of his book, he wasn't saying these colors were the only ones to use. His point is simply that you should limit your palette to three strong, contrasting colors for maximum visual impact. If that's what you want. Some designers aren't trying for that kind of impact. So be it. It's not a papal edict, for pete's sake, just a suggestion.

On the whole, I didn't find his interview anywhere near as awful as some of the hyperbole suggests. Most of his comments are right on the spot, if you read them in context. While he may not be quite the visionary he evidently fancies himself to be, I think epithets like "idiot" are a little extreme. There's really nothing here worth getting worked up about. Some of you are judging him as if he's claiming to be a prophet of cutting-edge design, and he's not. He's an old school print guy adapting principles of print design to web design. I wouldn't say his approach is particularly sexy or applicable to all websites, but we could all do worse than to be grounded in some of the principles he talks about. Hey, even Picasso studied the Old Masters.

posted by Bryan at 12:53 AM on April 25, 2000


I had never heard of Roger Black until today, through a real rockstar of the web's link. Guess I've been spending too much time checking out interesting websites and not enough time at MSNBC.
posted by flower at 12:59 AM on April 25, 2000


I'm personally a little unclear on the concept, yo I'm straight Mr. Boffo on the subject: So What exactly is a web-design rockstar?
posted by chaz at 1:11 AM on April 25, 2000


You go, Bryan.
posted by sylloge at 2:02 AM on April 25, 2000


I'm tired of all these web "visonaries" telling us what we should be doing and how we should be doing it. Rules and opinions are useful, but there's simply too many people around saying "I'm profound, therefore listen to me". Roger Black falls into this category.

Let's just get on with it.
posted by williamtry at 6:05 AM on April 25, 2000


Worth noting (however quietly) is that Derek's pride and joy follows the basic tenets of Roger Black design theory.
posted by werty at 6:39 AM on April 25, 2000


I would like to note that the majority of this thread has been of the blind faith following, mob-mentality, cult of personality type.

The irony is leaving me in stitches.

Spoon!
posted by rich at 8:22 AM on April 25, 2000


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It seems to me that they only thing Roger Black
has contributed to the world is the use of cool
rules. Least that is what his book says.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
posted by Brilliantcrank at 10:26 AM on April 25, 2000


I don't know, I think "There's hardly any good work on the Internet at all" is inflammatory. I think it's deliberately inflammatory too, playing into the whole "design superstar" mentality-- "He's such a bad boy, he tells it like it is." That's why I find it annoying.

If a web designer claimed "There's hardly any good work in print", you can bet print designers would be offended. But compared to the vast stagnant pools of crap out there in the print world, there's not that much really good design in print, any more than on the Web, right? That's why what we do as designers is valuable-- because it's in short supply.

Oh, and not to get snarky but regarding Bryan's remark "As for the infamous "red/black/white" concept...from what I recall of his book, he wasn't saying these colors were the only ones to use"... let me quote Black's book. He gives Ten Rules of Design: "2, 3, 4. The first color is white. The second color is black. The third color is red. ... White, black and red are the best. You've got to be very careful with other colors. We actually did a site... with all these autumn colors... We had to work very hard to make this effective on the Web." And if you look at his work, you'll see an almost fanatical allegiance to the white, black, red scheme.

I'm not trying to slam Black's whole body of work; he's a really interesting print designer and I even think that the white-black-red thing is a perfectly appropriate design philosophy for him to have because it calls attention to structure and concept rather than color, style, and 'decoration'. But it's just not as effective, appropriate, or relevant to the web. And you can say that about a lot of his design approach. The web sites he's designed just aren't very good! Yet Adobe holds him up as a Web design rock star, and he's a judge at the Webbies. Which helps explain, in my view, why the Webbies seem really tired and arbitrary in their selections 50+% of the time.

Yeah, maybe we're being too dishy and criticizing him for the wrong things. But really now, this IS a problem for web designers: any time bad web design proliferates, I think we _should_ talk about it. When Roger Black gets praised for his confusing, bandwidth-hogging web design work, we should talk about it. I've read plenty of copy about Amazon's nasty-ass tabbed interface; this criticism serves the same purpose.

We're all just alone at our computers just trying to do the best work we can; it's confusing when Black is interviewed as a Web design authority and you're left thinking "But his sites look bad! Am I crazy? Is this really what I should be trying to accomplish with my own design work?" It helps to hear other voices pointing out that the emperor has no clothes.
posted by wiremommy at 10:28 AM on April 25, 2000


From my site, peterme.com:
===========================
May 13, 1999
"Black calls Web design a 'hybrid of graphic design, advertising, and a whiff of software.'"
Okay. Look. I can't stand Roger Black. There. I've said it. The man might be the greatest thing to happen to ink on pressed dead trees, but when it comes to designing for the screen, and, more specifically for the Web, he's a farce. I normally don't give credence to farces, but this man gets his supposed message out way too much. To reduce Web design to "graphic design" and "advertising" is such an injustice that I fear if I were across a table from him, I wouldn't be able to contain myself from leaping across and strangling him. The man clearly has not a whiff of sense about interaction design, information architecture, or any other elements that truly matter in successful Web work. Which is probably for the better. He'll be done away with eventually. In the meantime, just keep up the facile idea-free work, Roger.
==============
Looks like nothing has changed

posted by peterme at 11:24 AM on April 25, 2000


Roger Black is what we get for design senselesness after David Siegel took some time off and came to his senses. He reminds me of David Ogilvy's famous warning about hiring advertising agencies that win awards (don't do it - they're designing to win awards, not sell product). Actually, if you're going to read something as a result of this thread, read this.
posted by faisal at 11:50 AM on April 25, 2000


The biggest impression that I got from this screed is that Black has no interest whatsoever in the personal web, only in the commercial web. What he says almost makes sense if you think of the web as nothing more than another medium for distributing commercial content.
posted by harmful at 12:12 PM on April 25, 2000


I suppose I'm guilty of being overly dishy, I can't argue that. I don't normally throw around words like "idiot". It's a bit childish, I think.

But the message I've gotten from Black, from his book and this interview, is one of extreme arrogance and dismissiveness. He doesn't say "I believe these print design principles are important to apply to web design". He says "if you're not doing it my way, you're wrong".

To me, the beauty of the web is lies in it's lack of definition. What really works best has yet to be discovered. To try to cram it into a box at this point is an insane and, I think, dangerous attitude.

I don't just disagree with his statements, I resent them. He overgeneralizes, and invalidates scores of sites that have great value. I honestly can't critique his skill or reputation as a designer, because I have a rudimentary knowledge of such things at best. But when I encounter arrogance and close mindedness of that degree, it gets my panties in a bunch, plain and simple.

To make sweeping declarations about what the web is and is not about is ludricrous. For one thing, it's still a fetus at this point. For another, it's obviously about far more than just transactions.

Personally, I think Black's comments should be confined to forums like this one, or his own personal site. I resent Adobe giving his opinions so much weight, and making references to his rock star status. To me, much of what the web is "about" is getting beyond such perceptions, where true communication lies. That's what it's all about, right? Design is secondary, in my opinion.

There are so many people out there who have truly visionary ideas information design, interface design, the potential of the web for communication, data visualization, etc. Why is there so much attention paid to somebody who's ideas are confined to such a narrow perception, not just of the web, but seemingly of life in general.

Maybe I'm getting a little ahead of myself, but that's certainly my impression. Kinda seems like idea facism to me.

Alright, I'll stop talking now.
posted by erimfoster at 1:31 PM on April 25, 2000


Last thought:

No matter what you thought of the Roger Black interview, be sure to tell Adobe about it.

I know I'm going to.
posted by fraying at 3:26 PM on April 25, 2000


I think the Internet is not a venue for transactions, for the most part.
It is a place for storytelling.
posted by vanadia at 8:57 PM on April 25, 2000


Black, red, and white... the color scheme which became hot in the advertising world in the mid1980s. Kind of says something about Black being stuck somewhere, doesn't it?

Regionally, we had a department adopt that color scheme around 1990 for its in-store and all its advertising. I just about retched when I saw what they were doing, thinking, "You're too late! It's been done to death." By the end of the decade, the color were still flying but the business went bankrupt and closed its doors.

Black's thinking is a lot like that department store's downfall.
posted by debrahyde at 5:47 AM on April 26, 2000


For someone who is supposed to be "it" on design...he just doesn't get it.
posted by nakedelf at 12:25 PM on April 26, 2000


Know what a problem with Metafilter is? Y'all are such smart, megastarlike people that sometimes I worry that my piddling contribution to the conversation will be... piddling. Even after spending over 20 of my 35 years following graphic design (and ten years writing about it). Back when other kids in New Brunswick were sniffing glue and speaking neither English nor French correctly, I was studying Letraset catalogues.

I met Roger Lenoir when he did Toronto about five years ago. Dunno if I posted the resulting article on my site. I grew up on classical Monotype book typography and I respond well to the detail-richness of blackian print designs: the custom fonts, the ranging figures, the extensive ligatures, and above all, the Scotch and Oxford rules all over the place.

I can't look at anything without registering its graphic design (I can name a font at 20 paces), but there are some Roger Black designs I remember as well as the article they embodied. Like a very long feature in Esquire years ago about the murder of Allan Schindler, a gay soldier. I remember the especial brown paper, the small type, the rules, and sitting in the café reading it. I don't remember anyhing by David Carson, by contrast, and I was published in Ray Gun. (Lots by Peter Saville, my total hero.)

I met the man. To say he is dapper would be a preposterous understatement. He wasn't meant to wear clothes; clothes were meant for him. He is completely in command of any conversation, even when you're as well-informed as he is (it's true!) and specifically try to keep him from getting the upper hand.

I remember when he started up Interactive Bureau, IAB. I also remeber Out, the abject failure of a gay magazine, recently bought by the haditvocate, then bought by PlanetOut. (Soon PlanetOut will run all gay media.) Michael Goff of Out, whom I cannot stand, was Roger's assistant. Nearly every senior employee at IAB or the Font Bureau was, like Goff, a stunning example of manhood. Matthew Butterick in particular was breathtakingly beautiful. There is no question of their competence. It's just that competence is merely one reason why Roger hires you.

I looked at pictures of early IAB work, particularly discovery.com, and my antisiegelist tendencies came to the fore. Slow loading! Prettiness over content! Inaccessibility! But at the time-- was this 1996?-- such designs were avant-garde and reflected vastly greater sophistication than DejaNews.com and Yahoo were giving us.

From the standpoint of interaction or usability, or even fitting inside a 14" monitor with full-on Netscape chrome hogging them pixels, discovery.com et al were failures. But those are not the only criteria. Roger Lenoir took over the writing of a signal chapter in early Web history when Siegel cacked out. Roger innovated in the use of desktop publishing, and he innovated on the Web. But DTP and the Web are the norm now. They are tried and true. SOP.

So here is my analysis of Roger's problem: He has not kept up. He missed portals, CSS, Weblogs, Web apps, database back ends as the absolute norm. His tendency toward lèse-majesté kept him removed from the many online communities that give the net such vibrancy. (MP3 and Napster are such communities. The blog intelligentsia is another.)

Roger can afford to be a bit behind in print design, because the avant-garde in graphic design does not sell. His brand of traditionalism does, and will continue to sell for decades. (In the year 2525, if man is still alive, print magazines will look very much as they do today, and Roger will still design half of them.) It's just that Roger can't afford to be even a smidgen behind on the Web. Can he ever catch up?

And will this wealthy, suave, and brilliant icon ever settle down with a man and quit hiring proxy boyfriends for his many companies?
posted by joeclark at 5:13 PM on April 26, 2000


How many people who commented here read the full article? Hmm? Derek, I love ya and I respect ya, but I don't like what you did with those quotes. As it's already been mentioned here, they were pulled out of context. That's not fair.

As for Roger's comments about black, red and white (or was it white, black and red). Hmm, yeah, so? He also admits that he's not a great designer somewhere in that article and that the top designers in his firm can do a much better job than him. You don't have to be a great designer to know what good composition is [Appearance & Reality coming soon -- that's a big fat plug for my dad's design book that has nowt to do with the web].

Community. Now here's an interesting one. Communities gather around ISSUES, not technology. There is no INTERNET community. The internet is a bunch of linked computers. So what? Would it be fair to say there's a 'telephone community'? I don't think so. There's a Fray Community; there's a MetaFilter Community; there's a Blog Community; there's all you lucky bastards that got to go to SXSW (Community). Those are issues. There are even communities around the implementation (or not) of Linux and Perl and ASP and IRC... there are a LOT of communities online. But there is no, "internet community."

Now will you all pardon me, my cat has just barfed and I have to clean it up. ;)
posted by emmajane at 6:33 AM on April 27, 2000


>>>So here is my analysis of Roger's problem: He has not kept up. He missed
portals, CSS, Weblogs, Web apps, database back ends as the absolute
norm. His tendency toward lèse-majesté kept him removed from the many
online communities that give the net such vibrancy.<<<

That's what struck me when I read the NY Mag article -- that by virtue of using the fashion design business template in building his graphic design empire, he couldn't possibly conquer the web. He sees the web as one coherent entity to which a visionary can apply a uniform look (ala all ads and all collateral pieces must breathe corporate identity). But the net isn't a singular entity. If anything, it's a mass of people full of brownian movement that can't be controlled by uniformity, design or otherwise. In failing to see the web for what it is, Black *can't* keep up -- the same way the French monarchy couldn't keep up with the masses.
posted by debrahyde at 7:04 AM on April 27, 2000


I think perhaps the larger issue is that if you don't see and feel the Web the way Derek does, you're clearly wrong wrong wrong.

Roger Black is some guy who did some great work but whose interviews reveal him, clearly, to be threatened by the Web - maybe he doesn't get it, maybe he doesn't like it, maybe his ISP treats him bad - and thus he feels the need to assert how much he is still needed.

Hurrah for him. Whatever. I so totally don't care. His web is not my web.
posted by gsh at 8:56 AM on April 27, 2000


Moo. Moooooooooooooooo.

That's what I hear - the abject herd of people following one guy's lead in righteous indignation.

People, *please*. The only thing worse than ripping some guy's quotes out of context is the sheeplike "Yes, Master, you're correct" zombie horde that followed.

From everything I can see, Roger Black is a very good traditional graphic designer. To a very good traditional graphic designer, the Web looks like absolute poo. He's looking at it from an aesthete's eye, not from some 23-year-old webmonkey's eye.

Honestly: look at the design of an amazon.com or any other major e-commerce site. It's crap. There's nothing going on. Yahoo is straightforward, but it ain't pretty. That's what Roger Black sees.

"Well, he just doesn't get it!" Petulant comments like that invoke the oh-so-3lit3 stance that YOU, and only YOU, can determine what the Web is like. It's also childish and bitchy. And just to press the point home, I believe Roger Black's hourly rate is probably more than any one of us would make in a day. Someone's respecting his opinions, and I don't think he cares that a bunch of webloggers think he's a jerk.

People. Until this childish, "this is MY Web, not yours!" attitude is lost, the medium will never grow. If, at any time, someone takes a look around and says, "Jesus, there's so much crap on the Internet!" - which is a TRUE statement - he risks getting pillored. A low barrier to entry does not produce an abundance of quality work. God forbid we should want some aesthetic standards in our websites.

And please don't be a sheep. And for God's sake, don't publicly kiss someone's ass like that. You'll just look dumb. Make your own decisions, don't let a blog make it for you.
posted by solistrato at 9:18 AM on April 27, 2000


Would this be a good time or a bad time to admit I didn't know "fraying" was Derek Powazek until about ten minutes ago? Or that I don't have any particularly strong feelings about Powazek (save "thank God for the end of the scrolling text box on his home page")? Wrong or right, I was annoyed by the Roger Black interview because I was annoyed by the Roger Black interview.

And I still find his comments highly dismissive and overly general. It bothers me that there are many good things out there, brought on by the Internet land grab, and he had naught but bad to say. He tried to soften the blow with weasel words ("for the most part"), but he still doesn't sound like he particularly likes the web nowadays. I do. So he bugs me. What can I say?
posted by mrmorgan at 7:31 PM on April 27, 2000


I just feel the need to respond to a couple of people who took me to task personally.

-- Yes, I quoted out of context. That's the way quoting works. But he said (and meant) those things, no matter what words were used to soften them. And I said, right at the top, that the quotes were inflammatory. I'm sure Mr. Black meant them that way.

-- I personally believe that the web is a very good place for storytelling, community, and design, and I've spent five years of my life working on those very areas. So you'll excuse me if I get a little miffed when some "expert" casts a narrow, uninformed shadow on them. I was here to vent my frustration, not to tell anyone what's right and wrong.

-- This is not about me. This is not about the "3lit3" (whatever that is). You should, of course, read the article and make your own decisions. I just posted this here because I found the comments appalling and thought that people here might as well. If other posters here agreed, why does it make them a "zombie horde"? Maybe people agreed with me out of their own free will. Maybe, just maybe, the existence of this site disproves half of what Mr. Black was saying.

-- In the end, Mr. Black was just expressing his opinions and I was expressing mine. You're free to believe what you want. It's just a shame when people have to get so personally nasty about it.

Viva la web,

-- Derek
posted by fraying at 11:32 PM on April 27, 2000


Hmm.. I didn't see any personal attacks on Derek. If anything, quite the opposite. I think the focus was on the fact that people (and this, of course is not limited to the web) seem to latch onto a particular person (in this case, being Derek - nothing personal, of course), and consume their thoughts without question, and then proliferate that belief without really critically thinking about it themselves.

Of course, a number of people did think about it themselves, but then, I'm not referring to those comments, am I?

Perhaps the only 'personal' comment was the out of context quoting comment. My only response would be; how are you *sure* what Roger Black meant? Are you in his head, or his target audience? It's always opinion, not fact, when we try to 'read between the lines.'

Oh, one personal comment: don't pretend not to know that 3lit3 is the old hacker/phreaker thing of how to type 'elite'. That's just silly. I mean, Ditherati just used that the other day.

As for Roger Black, this site, and disproving his arguments.. well, to his audience and demographic, I'd say he's probably correct. And these small pockets of virtual community have yet to add up into a cohesive band on the level you had ten years ago on BBS's and the early years of the web when it was actually possible to actually know a high percentage of who was on.

Plus, regardless of sites like this, Kvetch, Colors, Afterdinner, the recent UBB proliferation or elsewhere, the web is more of a reader's medium, with interactivity taking a back seat percentage.

As for personal beliefs, I feel some people tend to get a bit miffed when anyone, expert or not, counters, rejects, or otherwise challenges what that person thinks should be the status quo. It's that kind of insular thinking that limits what could truly be possible.

Viva life.

-Rich
posted by rich at 8:34 AM on April 28, 2000


I also have Rober Blacks book- Web Sites that Work I am glad I got it off the bargain table also. I take offense at what Rich has posted considering aparantly Rich has about at much charisma and talent as Roger black does. There is so much talent on the web, more than I see on a regular basis and I am in the business. Now I will admit that there is alot of Serious CRAP design on the web there are alot of incredibly wonderful sites out there to. I search for these original sites the ones that show that hey there is a place for this market and talent and you know what we can do things here that you CANNOT do in any other media. Print media its there its do be read its not to be interacted with. In film and tv advertisements its ther it intrudes on your happy home and your eyes and you look at it hear what is said then dwell on it or forget it. In the web you can paruse what you want at your leasure. There are ads but you dont have to hear their message unless you choose to go to their site or read it. People can be published here that cannot be published anywhere else because ANYONE has access to the web. Anyone can publish on the web for free. My other question is how can the internet NOT be a venue for storytelling! This is what the majority of the net people use is for. Its to read a story , a corporate story, personal stories, to post your stories and see what other people have been through and kind of know that you are not always alone. There are so many storytelling sites out ther what stories they are telling are vastly different but they are all telling some sort of story. I suppose I will leave my comment at that if you want email me and let me know what you think.
Karin
posted by Ponderance_2000 at 11:02 AM on April 30, 2000


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