… life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald / The Great Gatsby 1925
In the context of his masterpiece The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald probably wasn’t thinking about web design. I get that. More likely, this memorable line suggests that a person needs to focus on one aspect of their life. It could also be sort of a metaphor for Fitzgerald’s narrative style — One guy sharing glimpses into other people’s lives. Whatever, it’s a cool quote.
Now, you may not think that such a limited approach would work well for design. I mean, don’t we all want as much latitude and freedom of expression as possible? God no. Not me. It’s not my job to share my view of life. It’s my job to solve problems — And the more narrowly that problem is defined, the faster I can find a solution and the better it will be.
Trash the rest
Referring to his famous tradition of using only five typefaces throughout most of his career, legendary designer Massimo Vignelli said:
In the new computer age the proliferation of typefaces and type manipulations represents a new level of visual pollution threatening our culture. Out of thousands of typefaces, all we need are a few basic ones, and trash the rest.
I love that. For me it’s about simplicity and efficiency. I don’t have the time or patience to sift through hundreds of design options, many indistinguishable from one another. For most people, these subtle variations are distinctions without differences. It’s like some graphic “artists” and their whiny obsession with curly quotes. Jeez, get over it — Nobody cares.
I don’t know if Mr. Vignelli ever read The Great Gatsby, but around page 10 he and Nick Carraway were thinking alike. As for me, I actually go looking for single windows. Small ones. I seek them out. Constraints are good.