dConstruct 2010: John Gruber on why your site needs an auteur

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

John Gruber

dConstruct is proving to be more a cultural conference rather than a design or tech one. And I don’t mean cultural in the “theatre, opera, arts, daaaahling” sense. No, it’s about the culture that surrounds the making of a good website. I think this has been clearest in John Gruber‘s talk on the auteur theory of design.

His argument was simple. It was, in essence, a more positive spin on the argument agains decision-making by committee – great things, even when produced by teams, are created by one person, the person that makes the decisions. If that person is talented, the efforts of the group will tend towards his level of taste. If the decision-maker is a lowest common denominator bureaucrat, the efforts of the group will tend downwards, and will be less than the sum of the parts.

Kubrick Quotes

Gruber is best known, of course, for writing about a certain company, whose head closely fits that model. And he quoted Stanley Kubrick extensively, as you can see from one of the photos above. On its own, I suspect his presentation would have felt a little empty – but as the centre-point, just after lunch, of an exploration of the structure you need around building a website, it becomes essential, highlighting the element that will break or make your site. And the hardest one to change…

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.