Categorizing Design Styles

Published on Author Christopher Fahey7 Comments

If you can stomach the idea of reducing Web design creativity to a itemized list of compartmentalized styles and techniques, there are a number of sites cropping up lately that attempt to survey contemporary web design “styles” and to sort them into a neat and useful little categories.

First up: Patrick McNeil’s Design Meltdown. It’s a library of dozens of different Web design styles in use lately, focusing on some of the more graphically-intense, illustrative approaches. It’s a interesting way to get the “lay of the land” of some pretty good contemporary Web design examples that break the mold of simple boxy HTML. Some of the featured sites are, I think, very excellent and very innovative, and I had not heard of many of them at all before. What’s better, is that for each style they provide additional designer resources, such as links to ideas pertaining to that design style, plus tools/tutorials/techniques for producing some of the elements of each style.

A similar idea is Current Web Style, a recent and very interesting feature by the UK’s Ben Hunt, where a selection of popular and well-liked “Web 2.0” web sites are analyzed for commonalities and trends.

Another similar approach is Netdiver, which takes a problem-solving approach towards inspiring creative design solutions. They also has a huge catalogue of what they deem the Best of the Year 2005. If you’ve stopped reading k10k or surfstation every day (as I have, mostly due to their lazy short-and-useless posting style: “Cool site here!”), the Netdiver “Best of” catalogue will enable you to get all of 2005 under your belt in an hour or so.

All of these seem like more useful and more up-to-date versions of Curt Cloninger’s 2001 classic “Fresh Styles for Web Designers“, a site which I always respected for its detachment from what styles Curt thinks might be good or bad.


Are the crosses of Russian Constructivism the product of spontaneous invention, or are they merely part of a longer tradition of Russian graphic themes?

To add to the credibility of such undertakings, it might help to know that the inspiration for the Design Meltdown site is Steven Heller’s “Genius Moves: 100 Icons of Graphic Design“, in which countless famous historical design examples are shown to be unambiguously influenced and inspired by both long-existing cultural themes and contemporary styles and trends, and not at all the product of individual idiosyncratic innovation.

Yes, to a certain extent these are fairly crass. Nobody likes to have their design ideas dropped into a creative trend or style compartment. But I think it’s a useful exercise to view and catalogue creative styles with a non-creative, almost scientific eye, like a naturalist documenting and classifying hundreds of different species of beetle.

7 Responses to Categorizing Design Styles

  1. Thanks, Stephen, good stuff. I was showing the 4 sites above to my Interaction Design students this morning, and was thinking that the one thing that was missing was a survey of logos. I remember a few years ago there was a site analyzing all of the swooshes and stickmen that were common to dot-com boom companies, but it’s nice to see someone has made something newer, hipper, and so thorough.

  2. Thanks. The web has progressed, I think. Oversaturation of any one style is always disturbing, but I’ll take a ton of VAG over swooshes any day.

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