I’m staying in a good friend’s home on the East end of Long Island inspired by the late architect, Richard Neutra . It is a modernist marvel where form meets function and the ocean mist kisses a wall of windows that separates the outside from the inside (a signature Neutra touch).

Neutra’s view on architecture was pretty simple: rather than designing a place, he created transitions between site and building. That doesn’t mean that Neutra’s dwellings have ‘no sense of place’. He always talked about the important human need for ‘soul anchorage’ and for harnessing each site’s genius loci in creating it. To Neutra’s thinking, like any other creature, we humans must know where home is, but because humanity is not in opposition to nature but part of it, ‘home’ is more of an area: a constellation of planets rather than a single sun. 

Neutra’s self-assigned task was to understand the human in order to build a ‘shell’ robust enough to respond to a human’s complex needs.

This got me thinking about the current state of User Interface Design. I’ve had the good fortune of working with some incredible talent in this business — graphic designers that had a reason and rationale for every pixel pushed, every palette referenced and typography articulated in their creations. However, I’ve also come into contact with too many designers that don’t have an true understanding of design and architecture. They have no sense of spacial relationships and the integrity required to create meaningful digital experiences for consumers. Their choices are random and often nonsensical.

Web design is both an art form and a science. Neutra’s self-assigned task — to understand the human in order to build a ‘shell’ robust enough to respond to a human’s complex needs — is a mandate all young designers should follow. You cannot create a meaningful consumer experience that leads to a desired action or outcome if there isn’t an explicit purpose or intent outlined from the onset.

Note to young and emerging designers…

Do your homework, know your audience, study the greats in architecture and design and make your choices wisely.


*Reference: Neutra Complete Works