6 Things Web Sites Can Learn From Old School MTV

The Internet certainly doesn’t lack for resources on great web design. From various tutorials and inspiration galleries, you are bound to find a way to improve your design skills, learn new ways to accomplish something, stay on top of design trends or simply gain a new perspective.

But, sometimes it’s worth stepping away from your usual inspiration resources and turn elsewhere. One of the best places to seek out inspiration is music, especially old-school MTV music videos.

Not only can music increase your productivity, music influences your mood and it can also connect you with your client in a more meaningful way.

In this post, we’d like to share six things you can learn from old-school MTV…

1. Combine Different Techniques

A-ha’s “Take On Me” combines pencil-sketching with live action to tell a fantasy-romance story. Even though the video we all know today was in fact the second version, it gained traction thanks to the wide exposure it got on MTV and quickly rose to the top of the charts.

The video was innovative for its time and shows us how to effectively combine two very different art techniques and blend them in an attractive way that captures attention and manages to remain relevant.

2. Use Negative Space to Bring Focus to Your Design

Whether you call it white space or negative space, the fact is, careful use of it can bring elements on your page into focus. A great example of this is the video for “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor.

In this version of the video, O’Connor is wearing black, standing against a black background with a closeup of her face as she goes through various emotions. The lone face and two single tears rolling down her cheeks toward the end of the video made it immediately iconic in its simplicity.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Break the Rules

Grids, complimentary colors, and careful choice of typography are some of the basic principles of web design that ensure websites are aesthetically pleasing and easy to use. But, not all websites need to follow those rules. In fact, sometimes breaking the rules and coming up with a different way to showcase a gallery or using a different navigation method can add visual interest and make the website stand out.

The video for Jamiroquai’s “Virtual Insanity” is the perfect example of breaking the rules and making a visual impact. At first glance, the video includes moving furniture but it’s just an illusion. In actuality, the walls move on a stationary, grey floor with no detail, and give the illusion that objects on the floor are moving.

4. Establish a Narrative…

Every design should tell a story, including web design. The website should guide visitors from one point to another, whether the purpose of the website is to get more leads or more store conversions. The flow should be natural and effortless, leading visitors from the first page to the part where they get excited and want to learn more about the company or the person behind the website to that final moment where they turn into subscribers or customers.

One of the most iconic videos of all time, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” establishes a complex narrative in 13 minutes, beginning the story with a young couple watching a horror movie, walking out of the theater and experiencing a horror story of their own, only to realize it was all a dream.

5. …But Don’t Be Afraid To Break The Flow With CTAs

As much as the narrative guides website visitors to where you want them to go, don’t be afraid to break up the flow with a call to action where appropriate. Whether it’s to lead them to a new page to learn more or encourage them to do something, calls to action are integral to any website.

Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train” talks about a difficult topic dealing with children who live in abusive homes or are taken away against their will. But the story is interrupted with photos of actual missing children, bringing attention to an ongoing problem all over the world. The video itself led to 26 of the missing children being found after it received heavy airplay on MTV.

6. Mix Different Design Eras

It’s easy to find a design style we like and default to it each and every time, especially if it’s continually well-received. But design trends often change and as a result, you have to adapt if you want to stay relevant. Drawing inspiration from different eras of design and art and then combining them, challenges you to step outside your comfort zone and create something truly unique.

R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” finds inspiration in Indian movies and Caravaggio’s paintings which results in a video that combines dream-like imagery with biblical scenes accompanied by Stipe’s unique dance style.

Brenda Barron is a writer from southern California specializing in business and technology. Read more about what she’s up to on her site Digital Inkwell. More articles by Brenda Stokes Barron
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