Lynn Hill is a legendary female rock climber. In the 1980s she helped define sport climbing in the United States, most notably by being the first person to make a free ascent up the Nose Route on El Capitan in Yosemite. Like any experienced, well-seasoned person whose passion speaks all the words they need not say, Hill’s climbing is fluid, graceful and timeless.
See Hill in action here:
As a cyclist, a skateboarder and, in recent years, a boulderer, I always seek out finesse over tactlessness, fluidity over rigidness and a strong line over a technical zigzag. In cycling, it’s called souplesse — the rhythm of one’s legs and spin. In skateboarding, it’s the smoothness of a line of tricks and how you piece them together to be cohesive and explosive, like a song that builds to a climax.
There’s a parallel in my mind between these aspects of the physical things I like to do and the craft that I spend doing on a screen. The similarity is narrative. Telling a story in your output. In that video, Lynn Hill spins together a solid structure of a story that shows you her journey — you can actually see her thinking, figuring it out in her mind as she goes along the route. In bouldering, routes are called problems. And the act of topping out (reaching the summit) is called solving a problem.
Sounds like design or development, right?
The work we do — identities, websites, applications and bridging the gap from desktop to web to mobile — is a story we need to tell cohesively and with the utmost consideration.
It shouldn’t be janky. It shouldn’t be abrupt. It shouldn’t be awkward. It shouldn’t be over the top. It shouldn’t be x for x’s sake.
It should be measured. It should be cognizant. It should be aware. It should be respectful. It should be everything that needs to be there and nothing more.
Restraint is more impactful than showing power.
The tendency in our industry is to flex muscle from the outset when truly we should adopt a quiet, internal strength that simmers and stews, building momentum over the course of a narrative.
Be smooth, be strong, be quiet.