Web Design Techniques: Jean Claude Van Damme’s School for Web Designers

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Nick Haas
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If Jean Claude Van Damme (JCVD for short) were a web designer who applied techniques often portrayed in his movies, he would be pretty successful. I found that applying these web design techniques to your workflow may help achieve more consistent success as a web designer. Ready, set, spin kick!

Be Flexible: The Splits Can Save Your Life.

JCVD’s characters all leaned on their incredible acrobatic flexibility to get them out of some pretty tough situations. This flexibility was adapted for dancing, combat, training, impressing others, and slow motion air splits. No matter the situation, his characters knew they could be flexible enough to ensure a positive outcome.jcvd_image_splits

Like JCVD’s characters, the problems web designers need to solve are often unique. Web designers work against deadlines, budgets, requirements, and an ever-changing technical landscape. Establishing a flexible mindset is very important.

The responsive web design process is a great example of having to be flexible. Gone are the days of designing for one screen with fixed ratios. Web designers are now designing for many screens: phones, tablets, phablets, laptops, desktops, and TVs.

Being flexible positions you to solve problems as they arise and keeps projects moving forward.

Tip: Create a few mood boards for your first design deliverable. This web design technique allows for the exploration of multiple creative directions that can be quickly modified without burning through your budget.

Simplify The Approach: Remove Unnecessary Movements.


Frank Dux, JCVD’s character in Bloodsport, is known for simplifying of his approach against opponents. In his first match, he set the record for a knockout. No more overblown katas, intimidating stare downs, and long form moves. Dux understood the importance of this. It saved energy and reduced hits.

Practicing simplification in small ways pays big dividends. Consider your approach to solving problems, and attempt to streamline it. In doing so, decisions become clearer, time will free up, and noticeable progress will be made on projects.

Check out Re-Work, a great book by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson that offers guidance on this in various ways. In today’s world, our time is precious and simplification is valuable currency.

With this in mind, Frank Dux won the Kumate in record fashion.

Tip: For meetings, always set an agenda, a time limit, attendee expectations, and an ultimate decision goal. If the meeting turns into a waste of time, cancel it immediately.

Keep Training: Kicking a Bamboo Tree Will Hurt.

Kurt Sloane, JCVD’s character in Kickboxer, went through a rigorous transformation through intense training. After watching his brother, Eric, get badly beaten by Thai Kickboxing Legend Tong Po, (who has his own facebook page) he vowed to avenge this loss no matter the cost.

He trained with a legendary Muy Thai instructor who made him kick bamboo trees (ouch!). Kurt eventually became a hardened fighter.

One of the most important web design techniques for any web designer is to be constantly learning, practicing, and applying their craft. Want to learn more, push yourself, and get better? Don’t kick a bamboo tree (unless you want to). Instead, take classes at the Code Academy or Girl Develop It. Pore through Smashing Magazine, HTML5 Rocks, or Stackoverflow.jcvd_image_bamboo

It can take years to develop into an expert. Keep working hard; it pays off. It did for Kurt Sloane. He later defeated Tong Po and avenged his brother’s honor.

Tip: Initiating personal projects is an excellent way to keep your training up. Code a website, design a brochure, make a short film. The act of doing will inspire you learn more.

Make Friends: Together You Can Save The World.

In any martial arts film, friends make a difference. In JCVD’s films, having a friend was key in accomplishing goals. This was brilliantly portrayed in the film Double Team. Here JCVD teamed up with Dennis Rodman to save the world. Their friendship leads them to a showdown with the bad guys at the Roman Coliseum, featuring a tiger, land mines, and a baby. Man, what a team!

Working with others is a must. Your work will be better. Solicit feedback from friends, your team, or sites like Dribbble, Forrst, and Behance. Attend inspiring conferences like WMC Fest, Moxie Con, or An Event Apart. Get feedback and give it in return. Working with others is fun, rewarding, and memorable. You never know where it will take you.

Tip: Attend local design or developer meetups. These are typically free and relaxed environments in which to build your creative network.

Celebrate The Victories…But Not For Too Long.jcvd_image_bamboo_sequal

Enjoy the moments when you accomplish something big or small. Reflect on what it took to get there and how it could be better next time. However, don’t celebrate for too long because there will be many sequels with different characters for which you will have to prepare.

If you have any web design techniques that work for you, please share them in the comments below!

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Comments (6)
  • To me, that moment of creative breakthrough, where the idea sparks and you know exactly what you need to do, is the same as the moment JCVD asks Mylee to cut the glass chard ropes off his hands in Kickboxer.

  • Love this Nick, I really like the tips you provided…lots of actionable things here. Especially kicking a bamboo tree. I’m on it!

  • Slow motion air splits! YESSSS!

  • Thanks! Glad you find the tips helpful. Slow mo air splits are the best kind. Kurt, I know the scene you are referring to and it’s a doozy. I remember the first time seeing it, I thought he was crazy to ask Mylee to cut the ropes. But he knew it would lead him to victory. A calculated risk leading to a creative breakthrough indeed.

  • Hi Nick, great post, though I didn’t see any reference to my favorite Van Damme classic: Cyborg….

  • I’m amazed (and slightly concerned) about your JCVD knowledge.  Good Interesting Article!

 
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