The Timelessness of Nostalgia
The Christmas season is a nostalgic time for me. I can’t imagine the holidays without the beloved television specials I have been watching since I was a child. Even though the animation or stop-motion is outdated by today’s standards, I am blind to any shortcomings they may have due to my love of those holiday classics. If only websites were so nostalgically forgiving.
A Rankin/Bass Christmas
When I think of Christmas, I think of Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass. The company these two started, known as Rankin/Bass Productions, is responsible for cherished Christmas specials such as ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’, ‘The Year Without a Santa Claus’ and ‘Frosty the Snowman’ (plus many, many others).
Other non-Rankin/Bass-specials also form a big part of the fabric of my childhood holiday memories, including the classic Seussian tale ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ and my personal favorite, ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas.’
I am certainly not alone in my nostalgic love of these holiday mainstays. Generations of children have grown up watching these classics and, years later, have introduced their own kids to them as well. 34 years after ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ first aired, that holiday treasure and all these others still air each year without fail, to be enjoyed by old and new viewers alike – outdated animation and all.
I called these specials nostalgic, but a more appropriate word for them may be “timeless.”
Bellbottomed Web Site Designs
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “timelessness” as it applies to the Web. Unlike the aforementioned holiday specials, which still hold up wonderfully despite their dated production techniques and effects, websites do not tend to age so gracefully.
Web design trends are not unlike fashion trends in this way. Something that is the height of cool one day is an embarrassing 1970’s bell-bottomed disco outfit or an overbearing Flash website the next. You can look at many older web designs and place them almost unfailingly to a very specific time because of the once-popular design trends they so willingly embrace. To be cutting-edge now often means to be outdated once the next trend hits. Such is the burden of being one of the “cool kids.”
Timeless Design for the Web
As someone who designs for the Web, this lack of longevity bothers me. I want to create things that age gracefully. I want to be able to look back on the sites I’ve designed 5 or 10 years from now and find that they stand up despite their age. I want to create things that are timeless.
I believe this is a lofty but achievable goal and I believe it starts with a solid foundation. I believe that a project needs to have a foundation that includes well defined goals, quality content and a design that beautifully supports those two elements without attempting to be cool for the simple sake of being cool. I believe that timeless designs start with quality craftsmanship.
The latest trends and tricks may get you a “wow” today, but will they stand up tomorrow? Quality craftsmanship, an attention to detail, and solid (or in some cases, innovative) design choices that allow you to create something that is as useful as it is beautiful will always be “cool.”
Nostalgia is a Wondrous Thing
Nostalgia allows us to hear Linus explain the true meaning of Christmas to Charlie Brown without ever thinking how outdated the animation looks. It allows us to watch as Rudolph, Yukonn Cornelius and Hermey the elf dentist escape from Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster and never once do we remark how spotty the stop-motion puppetry appears. Nostalgia combats criticism with fond memories, giving us something we look forward to each year, something that is timeless.
By their very nature, websites will likely never enjoy the sense of nostalgia-inducing love that these holiday specials enjoy, but by focusing on the craftsmanship and details of our work today, I believe we can create something that will also be appreciated tomorrow, something that, if we are lucky, may one day be considered timeless. That, I believe, is about as cool as it gets.