Naughty John Naughton and Thank God for graphic designers

I still remember the early days of the commercial Internet, having graduated from college a good five years earlier. These days, information technology was restricted to local programming and games development, systems analysis and expressive computer art.

Computer monitors were small, expensive, monochrome and heavy.

My early web sites comprised of lots of text against dark or gradient backgrounds, contained bullet lists and headers that could fit across a monochrome 640-pixel wide screen. That was the standard size in late 1993, when the NCSA Mosaic browser was launched.

I learned to optimize my graphics for the benefit of the visitor; these days a 14.4k modem was top of the range.

Since then, a lot of things have changed. Resolutions of 1920px wide are quite common – across double monitors even – and a 20Mbit cable connection is often laughed at.

Nowadays, it seems strange to read commentary that reminds me of those early Spartan days of the Internet, 20 years ago. But that’s exactly what John Naughton did in an article titled “Graphic designers are ruining the web.”

It’s obvious that John Naughton does not appreciate today’s abundance of imagery that did not exist in the early 90’s. He seems to forget that Internet infrastructure took off to the point that wireless connections often comprise a large portion of Internet traffic. The global use of cellular phones was practically non-existent in the early 90’s, and now 3G and 4G networks are on the rise.

If it were not for graphic designers, the Internet would look like Peter Norvig’s web page, whom John Naughton seems to praise because of his position as director of research at Google.

The future belongs to graphic designers, simply because humans are visual creatures. The next big advancement of the Internet experience will be full sensory immersion, the way William Gibson imagined his ‘Cyberspace’, thus leaving John Naughton behind to reminisce about the early days of the Internet that won’t be coming back.

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