Artemy Lebedev

§ 25. The thing called format

February 8, 1999

People clone things. The cloning is done by taking a ready structure or pics and (sometimes) rehashing the text.

The “Clone Museum” is located here:

On the flipside, there is  format. It’s a set of rules, properties and functionalities viewed as qualities (visual qualities in our case) of a product. For example, with such typical features as newsprint, black-and-white print, a large logo on top of the frontpage, multicolumn layout, different heading sizes, small print and no staples—a newspaper is always recognizable. Saying that “The International Herald Tribune” is a ripoff of “The New York Times” is wrong.

Similarly, almost all web catalogs take after Yahoo!, whose designers came up with the most effective way of breaking down the subject classification: two columns of links to major sub-sections.

It’s hard to make a piano that would not resemble another piano, or a cell phone essentially different from another cell phone. The ultimate difference may be in the overall make, quality, design etc. Since all pants are alike in form, they are easily recognizable. But calling them clones is a bit too much of a stretch.

At some point there comes a person who devises a design form which meets the utmost needs to a degree that successors are left with no alternative but to copycat it without major changes. This is the point where format is begotten.

One should forget the fear of following someone else’s formula and learn to come up every time with something new.

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