First off, I think I read that term somewhere, soulless design. I know that I’m not the originator of it, but I liked it enough to remember it.
I mentioned it today in a tweet:
"I feel like responsive design has sucked the soul out of website design. Everything is boxes and grids. Where has the creativity gone?"
I got a ton of responses, some in agreement, some in disagreement, but an over-arching theme did present itself, and that is, we are just getting started with responsive web design. I agree, 100%.
I did however want to elaborate a bit more on my thoughts, as I think they are not about RWD as a methodology but more about the visual trends/aesthetics that are dominating our industry right now which I do think is tied to RWD because of it’s technical challenges.
If you’ve ever developed responsive site, you know that it is a different beast altogether. In most cases it is a significant amount of work. Sometimes this extra time is due to technical challenges, which are usually met with clever solutions like FitVids and FitText and sometimes it’s just the learning curve behind a new practice. Developers are astutely aware of all of these things, and I think that designers are too.
If I may go out on a limb here, I would say that as designers we are considering those technical challenges of RWD in our designs, and it is there that we are finding ourselves forgoing a detailed (what I would call “full of soul”) design for a simpler one; perhaps one that fits in to the many excellent RWD patterns that exist today. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it settling, but I do think that we are letting what we know about the technical aspects of RWD limit our creativity on the visual side of RWD.
Yes, responsive web design is brand new. Yes, we are all still learning what we can do with it, and exactly how to do it. Yes, there is a trend towards flat/clean design that plays nicely within RWD patterns. All of these things are quite true, but perhaps the most important of that bunch is that this is brand new, and we are shaping the future of it.
If I were to present a call to arms it wouldn’t be to bash the current RWD trends, but rather to push them. Push yourself to bring “soul” back to your designs, and then push your developers to come up with clever solutions to bring those soulful sites to life.