Do more, be better

Order versus chaos

by Harry on 10 July 2011, filed under Working It Out

Jessica’s recent blog post, You need a system to grow, reminded me of a debate I often have with clients. The more ‘creative’ the client is, the more resistant they are to having structure and convention applied to their website designs. The debate relates to what position to occupy on the continuum varyingly described as “linear versus non-linear”, “random versus ordered” or “creative versus boring!”

Although I am a creative thinker, I usually find myself representing the other side of the argument. I do my best to explain that if a new user has to go searching for content in unexpected places, or if they are forced to learn a whole new mode of navigation, they are likely to get frustrated and will quickly move on. The counter argument is that if the site provides enough interest and stimulation, the visitor will become drawn in and enjoy the unique experience you are offering. That’s a fair comment, but in reality most people won’t grant you that amount of time. Unless they already know you, there’s a good chance they won’t be bothered.

The thing I find most interesting in the order versus chaos debate, is that to be truly creative you need both. Unbounded chaotic expression may have its place on a Kandinsky painting, but in any creative discipline, where a clear outcome is sought, you have to have the two together. Whether it’s constructing a building, designing a website or cooking a gourmet meal, if you don’t seek to realise your creativity through some form of order, you’ll get nowhere. Even the Guggenheim Bilbao had its foundations poured first before the construction could begin.

This marriage of order and chaos is probably best illustrated in the ultimate example of creativity: the formation of new life. It all starts with total randomness, with a genetic mix that is just a big lottery. And without this exhibition of total chaos, life would die off within a few generations. But once conception takes place there is a totally ordered process right through until birth. Each step happens according to a carefully defined plan. There’s something beautiful about the way these two extremes work together to arrive at a perfect outcome.

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