We've covered programmer types. Now it's time we flip the coin and pidgin-hole designers. I've come up with four types of designers I've come across. I'm sure there are more so feel free to put your own in the comments.

Pablo PicassoThis first group is made up of artists who like the idea of a paycheck. At heart they are in it for the art, but web design pays the bills. They approach each design as a commissioned piece of art rather than a composite for a working site. Each piece is meticulously crafted into what is often a stunning work that could very well be found gracing a wall somewhere. The designs this group produces display balance, consistency, and visual appeal. However, these designers are artists at heart so as a Picasso painting doesn't really give you any clue to who it's a portrait of, their designs favor ascetics over usability and strong conversion points. Also, since these designers view their work as art, they take feedback and criticism personally resulting in a half hearted effort with revisions.

If you ask them to produce a big red button you might get this:

 

Artist's Big Red Button

John WayneThis second group shoots from the hip. They are not artists, they are visual gun slingers who find inspiration and run with it. Like the "Duke" they design with a swagger, using bold ideas that often break the "rules" of design. This blatant disregard for the color wheel often produces designs that are exciting, attention demanding, and innovative. They usually involve more consideration for the user experience and an emphasis on conversion points is second nature. Unlike the "Picasso" designer, this group loves feedback, as it just adds to their arsenal of ideas. However, the designs they produce tend to be cherry picked ideas the designer likes and integrates regardless of whether it fits the design or not. And since they love innovation so much they also tend to try to create a "new" way of doing things, which can be confusing to users. The end result can end up a bit jumbled and inconsistent.

If you ask them to produce a big red button you might get this:

From the Hip Big Red Button

June CleaverThis designer LOVES it when things are clean, tidy, and in their proper place. They don't feel a passionate need to create a masterpiece and neither do they worry themselves with re-inventing the rules for how a site should be designed. Their designs are consistent, usable, and easy to navigate. These designers create layouts that enable the user to easily find their way around. The design is pragmatic and almost always fits the type of site being designed to a tee. Ecommerce sites look like an eCommerce sites. Brochure sites dispense information in a no-nonsense manner. All in all there are no surprises and no inconsistencies. They also tend to be boring. While they pass information to the user cleanly and clearly, they don't inspire them or demand their attention.

If you ask them to produce a big red button you might get this:

June Cleaver Big Red Button

The Economics Teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (Ben Stein)"Bueller... Bueller... Bueller...", Ben Stein's ultra dull drone embodies what every high school student has experienced: the dull ecconomics/math/accounting teacher. These teachers have zero people skills and are not looking to gain any. Their design counterparts are not much different... and they are known by another name: programmers. Sadly, many design firms make the home page look good and leave the rest of the design to the programmer who is doing the nuts and bolts of the site. While some programmers excel in the design realm many, many, MANY programmers do not. They are responsible for clunky, boring, and uninspired designs. The only reason I include them in this list is because for some reason they are responsible for so many designs on the internet, many times in rather significant places (go dig down into a large corporate site, the design tends to get worse the deeper you go). There is no upside here. Just dull, unattractive, and hard to navigate non-designs.

If you ask them to produce a big red button you might get this (God help us):

Bad, Bad, Bad Big Red Button

Conclusion:

Every desginer has the place where they pull from to produce a design. Some pull from the artistic force within, some from the need to innovate, and others choose a pragmatic path. Some should not be allowed to design... ever. I've found the best designs come from someone who is willing to go beyond their strengths and stretch into new areas. Most often this takes practice, hard work, and lots of mistakes along the way. So to all the John Waynes, June Cleavers, and Pablo Picassos out there make every effort to widen those horizons. To the Economics teachers, make friends with a designer.