AKA a (trying not to be douchey) design manifesto for myself while designing for the Internets.


It’s not about what program you’re using, it’s about the message you’re trying to communicate. Choose the tool that satisfies your objectives. 


Form follows function.


It’s not about whether designers should code, or whether everything should look like Material Design, it’s about whether designers should think. We need to think about the platforms where our work lives, how it’s developed and how it’s deployed.


Think about what are the cultural and historical references to the work you’re creating. Think about why you are building something a certain way and what influences those decisions.

Gray areas

We need to have space for lateral thinking. There aren’t too many concrete answers, things are amorphous and we must be comfortable in that. There is no black and white in design.

Thinking 3-dimensionally

Much design pedagogy comes from industrial design. In the meantime, while user experience and digital product design catches up, these are the pillars we use. It makes a lot of sense that as web design practitioners we should think three-dimensionally. When you’re navigating through a website, there are many similarities to navigating through architecture. Sometimes you don’t mind being lost, and sometimes you need the signs to guide you. Create frameworks that provide structure and a reference point for visitors, but that also leave room for interpretation.

Explaining our Work - Three zoom levels

All the way out for strategy to pitch our work, medium zoom for creative direction and user experience, and zoomed all the way in for graphic design and details.


We are working for businesses so business objectives need to be priority.

Stand up for yourself

Be bold. If something’s not right, call it out and do something constructive to solve it.

Don’t lower your standards so that others will feel comfortable.

People won’t like you more for being mediocre. 

Be original

Remember why you became a designer. If it was to make websites that look like everyone else’s, then you should probably go back and think of a better reason.


Talk to everyone involved in the project, at every opportunity, every day.


Listen to your team members, listen to your users and listen to your clients. And try to keep in mind everything you've learned throughout the process.

Eliminating waste 

Find the core element that gives the essence of the product. We can simplify our products and reduce unnecessary complexity.

Vow of chastity (Adapted from John Morgan’s famous letter)

Design nothing that is not worth reading.

Design is design

The fundamental principles of design are the same across all disciplines. Human behaviour is the same and so the design principles are the same, whether you are designing for a mobile screen or a giant billboard.

Design for people

Only collect data if you are also going to use it to improve the experience for people.

Open your mind

Look at art, go to shows, look at architecture, read literature. Other disciplines can feed into your work and make it better. But most importantly look around you! The sights, sounds and characters of our everyday lives are sometimes the most inspiring thing of all.


Specifically on Being an Designer/Entrepreneur

Talk to everyone, but LISTEN to the right people.

And be independent enough to ignore the ones you need to.

You can’t do this alone.

Surround yourself with the right people that will give you constructive criticism and sound advice, and find a partner to share responsibilities of growing a business. 

AuthorElizabeth Pizzuti

It was a day the art world had never seen before. Last Monday at Christie’s auction house in New York, a Picasso painting sold for $179 million, which sets a record for the most expensive item ever to sell at auction. In total, the auction house sold more than $1 billion of art over three days - a new record for the art world.


Jeff Koons, 'Balloon Dog (Orange)'

Jeff Koons, 'Balloon Dog (Orange)'

This 12 foot sculpture of a balloon dog is the most expensive item ever sold by a living artist. The price tag was $58.4 million.

Despite numbers like these, emerging artists are meant to accept the fact that they cannot make a living from selling their art; The money simply doesn’t filter down to the emerging market. Understandably, advice for new art grads is often, “Don’t quit your day job”, but when all of your waking hours are spent doing something other than what you love (which is making art), how does that impact the diversity of the art world overall?

In the tech world we talk about disruption all the time and it’s become such a buzzword, but the truth is that companies who are disruptors identified and solved a unique problem to their industry. Uber solved transportation problems, AirBNB solved hospitality problems, Snapchat solved messaging problems. So what are some art world problems?

1. Transparency 

Buyers and sellers at large auctions can remain completely anonymous, and thus no one truly understands what drives irrational market forces. And similar to the financial markets, those who have insider information have leverage and control of market demand and therefore profits.

"Dealers operate in a murky shadow world, and money flows from information asymmetries. The ones who make a profit off the art market are those who know the industry front-to-back and have the deep pockets to buoy the markets of their artists when interest wanes.” www.blouinartinfo.com

2. Diversity

The perpetual promotion of a few top earners leaves a larger population of artists out in the cold. For art dealers and advisors it's becoming common to go down a list of top artists and tick of the blue-chip names that "need" to be in the collection, just like stocks in a financial portfolio.

3. Accessibility

The art world overall, and especially the gallery system is inaccessible for most people. It’s not working for emerging artists, and it’s not working for collectors who don’t have buckets of cash. New collectors may find the art world overpriced, intimidating and elitist. Hard-working emerging artists may not have been born into the right circles of influence to create demand for their work.

There is some grumbling even within the establishment. After 41 years, New York’s McKee Gallery is closing down and the founders attributed their decision to their disgust with the current state of the art world. “The value of art is now perceived as its monetary value,” their statement reads. “The art world has become a stressful, unhealthy place; its focus on fashion, brands, and economics robs it of the great art experience, of connoisseurship, and of trust”.

There is a trend towards collecting for the sake of making a conspicuous investment, as newly minted billionaires in China, Russia and the Middle East vie for their cultural legacy. New collectors who enter the art world through the lens of the market are understandably more conspicuous in their purchases of what they believe to be ‘profitable' artwork. There is less risk being taken with difficult or challenging work, which leads one to wonder if the art market overall has lost confidence in artistic values. Artist Olafur Eliasson believes it has - he’s gone so far to say that the art market is counter-productive to creativity.

I’m (obviously) fascinated by the art market. I worked at an arts nonprofit in New York that was very well connected to the art scene there, and I remember the founder curating our fundraising auction based on what seemed like a gut feeling. I even asked what made one artists work more valuable than others, as it didn’t seem based on the work alone. She had twenty years of experience as an art dealer before founding RxArt and knows the intrinsic value of the work - the organisation places contemporary art installations in children’s hospitals, aiming to improve the patient experience - but she also understands market forces.

Many times the value placed on an artist’s work is as much about the artist and their connections as it is about the quality of the piece. In the traditional art industry, these connections are forged and validated through the gallery system. However, galleries don’t necessarily support the careers of emerging artists, and take a minimum of 50% commission on all sales of work. There must be a better way to introduce new collectors to the artistic community.

It’s quite a shock when a gallery that’s founded on the fundamental principle of talent and ability is breaking new ground in the art world. The founders of The Unit Gallery in London have said in a Guardian article, "In an industry so often governed by commercial viability, back stories and nepotism, we proudly stand by our commitment to only showcase work that we genuinely believe in and nothing else.”

The tech sector has a knack for giving full access to goods and services where we were previously limited to less efficient, traditional industry standards. The art world needs us, but the industry needs to be open to some big changes.

So how can technology help?

People are buying more art online, which can begin to democratise the industry. While it won’t do anything to change the astronomical price tags at the top tiers of the market, it could do a lot to encourage new collectors to get involved and help emerging artists to have more control over the way their work is shown and sold.

Of the 5.1 billion pounds in 2014 sales from Christie’s last year, 21.4 million was from online only sales. And while that’s only around 4% of total sales, that figure spiked 54% from the year before. And this percentage is increasing year after year.

Gerard Richter, the most expensive living European artist, has a “very good website” (it's terrible) that dealers believe contributes to his sales, allowing new collectors to thoroughly research his life and works.

I’ll mention a few of my favourite tech companies that are making progress towards solving the problems I mentioned of transparency, diversity and accessibility.

Art List (https://artlist.co/) is a peer to peer selling network, like the AirBNB for art sales, who aims to reduce the need for large auction houses who have a history of shortchanging artists on resales. They take a 10% commission on sales, which they share 50/50 with artists.

Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Art) has recently made it’s foray into the art market, partnering with around 150 galleries who give up a slice of the commission on each sale - between five and 20 per cent - in return for Amazon bringing their art to a larger, international audience. DegreeArt.com is one of the galleries collaborating with Amazon in this venture, who for ten years has been the UK market leader in online art sales, specialising in UK student and graduate art sales.

Paddle8 (https://paddle8.com/) is an online auction house for fine art, with themed auctions from selected nonprofits. So instead of all auctions being forced through the traditional houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s, smaller organisations (such as the one I worked for) who are fundraising can reach more people. They take around a 20% commission on sales, which seems like a lot but is actually good compared to larger auction houses standard commission of 35%.

There are these and many more companies making progress towards breaking down barriers to entry, but there has yet to be a service that’s come along to disrupt the traditional way of doing things. 

There are big opportunities to explore.

An intrinsic value in art (separate from its price tag) is something best communicated by artists themselves. I propose a service that gives control to the artist to tell the full story of the work, that completely de-commoditises art while educating people about its virtues.

…wish me luck making that profitable.


By the way, I'm working on a product that aims to solve some of these problems. You can find more info about that here. This post is based on a talk I gave last Tuesday at Digital Shoreditch called 'Disrupting the Art World'.

AuthorElizabeth Pizzuti
CategoriesTechnology, art