Why So Ugly?

Rob Walker discusses the absense of a design imperative in MySpace’s offering.

When I first looked at MySpace, my reaction was: “What a mess. It’s just (visual) noise.” In fact I think I reacted to it much like parents reacted to some of the music I listened to when I was a kid: That it wasn’t music at all, just noise.
Now what’s interesting about that to me is that, from my point of view, it most certainly was music. It was not “noise” in the way they meant, at all. They just didn’t get it. We differed.
And since I first looked at MySpace, I’ve wondered if something analogous isn’t going on. It looks like visual noise to me, but maybe I just don’t get it. The people who made MySpace a hit originally were largely members of a generation that I’m not in. Maybe MySpace spoke to them in a graphic/visual language that not only made sense to them, but pleases them — the same way the Ramones or the Clash pleased me, but agitated my parents.

One can manipulate the code and make MyMessySpace more orderly, but 99,9% of the templates available for free on third party sites contribute to the MySpace look and feel, as opposed to redefining it in a cleaner, more Facebook-like manner.
For more on this topic, see Danah Boyd’s field research.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.