PRINT January 1999

Jeremy Blake

A photograph in Robert A.M. Stern et al.’s New York 1960 catches Norman Mailer smirking as he presides over a gathering of city planners in the living room of his Brooklyn Heights home. The writer had summoned these architects and urban engineers to witness the unveiling of his maquette for a fifteen-thousand-unit apartment building—made entirely from Legos. Decked out in a sports coat he might have stolen off the back of a used-car salesman, Mailer set new standard for public housing (not to mention hubris). When it comes to design on the World Wide Web, one is tempted to the same sort of swash-buckling theatrics that brought attention to Mailer’s own eyecatching composite of interconnecting multicolored units.
Designing for the Web, like building with Legos, demands inventiveness at the same time as it imposes certain preset constraints. Technical considerations (for example, load time, ease of navigation, and hardware compatibility) come back to haunt any Web designer reckless enough to forget them. So what transcends these limitations and gives the Web user more to live for than armchair shopping opportunities? Innovative design in support of engaging content—or at least a great gimmick.

Jeremy Blake is an artist who lives and works in New York City. His first solo show, “Bungalow 8,” will open at Feigen Contemporary in March.