The Charfish Design Manifesto

Charfish Design Manifesto

Why a manifesto?

Charfish Design ManifestoBecause in a world where everyone’s a designer, designing isn’t enough anymore. Clients want to know what’s behind their projects and the people that do them.

Some say technology is making our world smaller but it’s really just making it more anonymous.

There are professionals from every field available online. You can order groceries, do your banking and hire a lawyer whose face you’ll never see, all from the comfort of your keyboard. Whatever you’re looking for is available in legions.

So the question is no longer whether or not you can find someone to do the work. You can.

The question is: who’s going to do it? It’s about you and me and our personal branding. It’s about the people behind the scenes, what they do and how they arrive at their magic.

It’s about the quality you’ll present to this growing world of quantity.

In all the speed of our modern world we’re all still seekers after beauty. We can get the news anywhere, but where do we find the poetry? For me the poetry is in the process and in the end result. You’ve got to take a ride and make the ride enjoyable for those around you. You’ve got to be responsible about where you’re going and how you get there.

This manifesto is about us, what we do and how we arrive.

Why do we design?

We design because we love it.

We design because design is beautiful.

We design because making something look better earns us the right to complain about things we don’t like. And then change them.

We design because this is our world and if we don’t like it we’ve nobody to blame but ourselves.

Apple computers are gorgeous; that’s half the story. They also work phenomenally well, which is the other half. But were they boxed in matte black sheet metal they’d lose appeal. You could say beauty is not tangible, but anyone who’s opened the box of a new shiny gadget and felt that rush knows the truth.

Design is tangible; beauty is tangible. You can’t cut either of them with a knife but that’s a physicist’s definition of tangible and we’re not interested in that here. The truth is, we all know, deep down where the real things reside, there’s another universe of tangible and it sits right there in your chest.

It’s the place where Christmas as a child lives and where it hurts when you lose someone. There’s more reality there than in any block of concrete.

That’s why we design: because it matters.

How do we design?

Very carefully. That’s the truth disguised as a flippant answer.

It’s the truth because good design is functional, and without the end goal and end user in mind, there can be no true function and hence no design.

We design when we know where we’re going, and no sooner. There is beauty in functionality, in purpose.

You know the feeling you get when you flip on the light switch and nothing happens? That’s bad design. Bad design is improper function and something not working like we suppose it should.

Is a website any different? Should there be ten images when one will do? Should the navigation require the wits of a neurologist to figure out? Should every last pixel be packed with eye candy?

One glance around the ‘net will show you that not everyone in our field agrees, but there’s one sure thing we’ve come to know over the years:

When there are millions of websites, ebooks and products available at the flick of a “dot com,” quality is of utmost importance.

The web is about content. Anyone who comes to your site is looking for something. Our purpose as designers is to deliver this something, make it live, make it breathe and present it as it should be presented.

Or at the very least just make sure people can find it, for God’s sake.

Design is the route the crow flies from dry utility to brilliant interesting function.

If it doesn’t work, it isn’t designed well. And if it does work but people don’t want to use it…it still isn’t designed well.

Good design works and people want their hands all over it.


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Charlie Pabst is a guitar-wielding designer, a sharp-shooting writer, and a tell-it-like-it-is ever-kid. He is also not afraid of hyphens.

He is the founder of Charfish Design and Ignite Living.

You can read more about him here. And you should definitely follow him on Twitter.

12 Responses to “The Charfish Design Manifesto”

  1. That’s right. Me. You are amazing and the way you work is amazing. I flippin work with you and I am still in awe.

  2. Abigail

    YEeeeeessssss! I would hire you in a second if I needed something designed.

  3. Very well said. I don’t know you, but found your blog and think you’re brilliant. I am an amateur designing my own website using Freeway Pro. I’m learning slowly and improving the site bit by bit and have huge respect for good website designers (and builders). Keep up the good work and thanks a lot.


    • Wow, Sophia…that is very kind. Thank you for that.

      I just checked out your site and it’s a good start. In fact, you’ve made some smart choices that a lot of beginning designers don’t make. I’m glad you haven’t put EVERY cool font and EVERY cool color you could find onto the site. The minimalism is fantastic.

      You keep up the good work, too, and keep in touch! Thanks again for the comment and smile!


  4. The second you mentioned poetry I was all ears. Just might have to hire you in the near future. In the meantime, keep rocking so hard. Any designer with such a lovely manifesto is gold in my book.

    • What a lovely comment, Tessa! Thank you very much for that.

      Glad you liked the manifesto. Hope to see you around here s’more.



  5. I need your help designing a website. I will only use former architectural students.

    • Niraj! Crikey!

      I would love to work with you. Unfortunately, it is against my personal credo to work with anyone who is 6000 times funnier than myself.

      If you’ve become unfunny over the years, maybe. If not, you’ll have to design your own website. In your case I’d recommend one with lots of square white bits, like Richard Meier. Or anything with lots of pink, and swear words hidden in the background.

      Damn I miss having pizza lunches with you.

      • Today is your lucky day! My age has diminished my wit signficantly. I am on my best day only 5999x as funny as you.
        Which, per your criteria, qualifies me for Charfish assistance.
        My needs are as follows:
        Website design
        Logo design

        I have a started a multi-room company with aspirations to go multi-national in the future.

        Let me know best way to contact you to further this discussion.

        The pizza was good. Especially after 96 hours in the studio.

  6. If some one needs expert view about blogging and
    site-building then i recommend him/her to visit this web site, Keep up the fastidious work.


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