All creative endeavours require timely engagement and a level of personal intimacy, thus carrying the risk of developing an emotional and physical proximity between the artist and his work. Website design, despite its inherent practicality in function and purpose, is not free from this predicament. As we set off working on our project’s visual façade, we tend to rely on an “idea” of the final design formulated in our minds, a set of aesthetic and emotional expectations acting as a compass in our creative process. But when lines, shapes and colours begin to populate the screen and the design acquires a life of its own, the original guiding mental conceptualization does not simply die away. It lingers in the shadows of our subconscious. This leaves us with a challenging question: what do we actually perceive? Is it the objective visualisation of our website or an abstract entity derived from our personal ideas still operating at the back of our heads?
The precise answer as to the degree of subjectivity in our perception will depend on our “artistic distance”. Though the term defies simple formalisation it can generally be defined as the ability to assess an object on the basis of a comprehensive set of criteria that lacks a dominating subjective psychological factor. Since artistic distance can have a fundamental impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of website design, below I propose four different methods that can help create “space” between the designer and his work. These include a “brain resetting” exercise, image rendering, constructive criticism, and for those willing to take things to a whole new level, meditation.
Artistic Distance in Visual Arts
To better understand ways to enhance our artistic distance we should first begin by considering a more formal treatment of its definition. In academic literature, the often cited treatise on artistic distance is an article by Edward Bullough, originally published in the British Journal of Psychology in 1912.
Bullough employs an example of a fog at sea to demonstrate the intricacy of our perception. For most people fog might have a rather negative connotation, often arousing anxiety or a similar kind of unpleasant feeling. The author attributes such psychological response to the “fears of invisible dangers, strain of watching and listening for distant and unlocalised signals”. In other words, a mere occurrence of a fog can unleash a whole array of psychological and behavioural associations that are carried with our memories that build up throughout our lives. However, despite these practical considerations, that is not the only way in which we can perceive the natural phenomenon, and indeed a fog at sea can also be a source of intense relish and enjoyment. If we could abstract from the reality of the situation, together with its sense of danger and unpleasantness, we would be able to take notice of the more “objective” qualities of the phenomenon. As Bullough eloquently puts it, we might for example observe “the carrying-power of the air”, “curious creamy smoothness of the water, hypocritically denying as it were any suggestion of dancer” or “the strange solitude and remoteness from the world, as it can be found only on the highest mountains tops”. Thus, letting go of our habitual interpretations can give rise to an entirely new experience of the phenomenon, shedding light on its otherwise unfathomable constituents.