Is beauty too deep?

10 May 2005 - 8:58am
9 years ago
10 replies
549 reads
Dave Malouf
2005

In my readings about aesthetics (thanx everyone for the great suggestions),
I noticed a concentration on "beauty". Now I know from the formal side of
the aesthetics community aesthetics is almost the philosophy of beauty. A
noble academic goal indeed. But this line of reasoning feels a bit too
academic and hard to make tangible into my day to day.

I wonder if "beauty" is not really the right noun to be thinking about and I
wonder what word would best replace it with something as all encompassing,
but less intangible. I mean beauty is right up there with love in being
indefinable, yet ultimately well understood.

I think if we take Peter Morville's honeycomb as a starting point, and then
try to define the "hive" itself, it might be a good starting point. I'm
definitely interested in what other people think.

I do like the way Roweena Reed (founder of Industrial Design Program @ the
Pratt Institute) spoke about "beauty", as the perfect combination of form
meeting function. I don't have the quote handy now, but when I read it, it
was like beauty was an "ah-ha" quality.

I have had that with very few products. The iPod was definitely one (if not
completely cliché at this point). I know I haven't had it with much software
at all.

It's almost like saying the response of beauty in product design is ...
"I get it, and I want to make it part of my life."

The question I have is, do the variables of the different qualities that
make up "experience" need to change, not just by individual, but that
individual within specific contexts or settings of expectation?

-- dave

David Heller
http://synapticburn.com/
http://ixdg.org
dave at ixdg.org
dave at synapticburn.com
AIM: bolinhanyc || Y!: dave_ux || MSN: hippiefunk at hotmail.com

Comments

10 May 2005 - 9:20am
Robert Reimann
2003

I prefer talking about _affect_ than talking
about beauty; i.e., about eliciting the
appropriate psychological/emotional response
for a particular context.

Beauty, and the feelings of transcendence and
a pleasure it evokes are really only a small
part of the affective design palette... is it
appropriate to make battlefield software or
a radiation therapy system control surface
"beautiful" per se? Or, for example, the Yucca
Mountain nuclear waste warning monument?

In my opinion, the affective aspects of design
have long needed more explicit attention and
analysis.

Robert.

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of David Heller
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 9:58 AM
To: ixd-discussion
Subject: [ID Discuss] Is beauty too deep?

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]

In my readings about aesthetics (thanx everyone for the great suggestions), I noticed a concentration on "beauty". Now I know from the formal side of the aesthetics community aesthetics is almost the philosophy of beauty. A noble academic goal indeed. But this line of reasoning feels a bit too academic and hard to make tangible into my day to day.

I wonder if "beauty" is not really the right noun to be thinking about and I wonder what word would best replace it with something as all encompassing, but less intangible. I mean beauty is right up there with love in being indefinable, yet ultimately well understood.

I think if we take Peter Morville's honeycomb as a starting point, and then try to define the "hive" itself, it might be a good starting point. I'm definitely interested in what other people think.

I do like the way Roweena Reed (founder of Industrial Design Program @ the Pratt Institute) spoke about "beauty", as the perfect combination of form meeting function. I don't have the quote handy now, but when I read it, it was like beauty was an "ah-ha" quality.

I have had that with very few products. The iPod was definitely one (if not completely cliché at this point). I know I haven't had it with much software at all.

It's almost like saying the response of beauty in product design is ... "I get it, and I want to make it part of my life."

The question I have is, do the variables of the different qualities that make up "experience" need to change, not just by individual, but that individual within specific contexts or settings of expectation?

-- dave

David Heller
http://synapticburn.com/
http://ixdg.org
dave at ixdg.org
dave at synapticburn.com
AIM: bolinhanyc || Y!: dave_ux || MSN: hippiefunk at hotmail.com

_______________________________________________
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10 May 2005 - 9:53am
Anastasia Fischer
2004

It seems the equation 'beauty = form meets function' would fit with Robert's
term 'affect'. The meeting of form and function has been considered an
'aesthetic' by many philosophers. I agree completely with Robert that
battlefield software would be inappropriately designed if it was tastefully
beautiful. And in my world bankers do not want their employees having
software that is too visually enticing as they fear it would divert the
worker bees from their drudging tasks (sad, but true)

Further, to support Robert's point, the discussion of aesthetics seems to be
more a question for philosophy, while the discussion of appropriate 'affect'
is more the focus of designers. I assume many designers have implicit
education and/or awareness of aesthetics and the millennium of debates
around them... they are inheritance that inevitably will impact how we
perceive and imagine 'affect'.

That said I find most interesting the differences in cultural aesthetics. I
am curious if people from different cultural backgrounds (and aesthetic
inheritance) would regard and/or create 'affect' in the same manner as one
another?

Anastasia

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
> ers.com]On Behalf Of Reimann, Robert
> Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 10:21 AM
> To: ixd-discussion
> Subject: RE: [ID Discuss] Is beauty too deep?
>
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
>
> I prefer talking about _affect_ than talking
> about beauty; i.e., about eliciting the
> appropriate psychological/emotional response
> for a particular context.
>
> Beauty, and the feelings of transcendence and
> a pleasure it evokes are really only a small
> part of the affective design palette... is it
> appropriate to make battlefield software or
> a radiation therapy system control surface
> "beautiful" per se? Or, for example, the Yucca
> Mountain nuclear waste warning monument?
>
> In my opinion, the affective aspects of design
> have long needed more explicit attention and
> analysis.
>
> Robert.
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigner
> s.com
> [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interaction
> designers.com] On Behalf Of David Heller
> Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 9:58 AM
> To: ixd-discussion
> Subject: [ID Discuss] Is beauty too deep?
>
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> In my readings about aesthetics (thanx everyone for the great
> suggestions), I noticed a concentration on "beauty". Now I know
> from the formal side of the aesthetics community aesthetics is
> almost the philosophy of beauty. A noble academic goal indeed.
> But this line of reasoning feels a bit too academic and hard to
> make tangible into my day to day.
>
> I wonder if "beauty" is not really the right noun to be thinking
> about and I wonder what word would best replace it with something
> as all encompassing, but less intangible. I mean beauty is right
> up there with love in being indefinable, yet ultimately well understood.
>
> I think if we take Peter Morville's honeycomb as a starting
> point, and then try to define the "hive" itself, it might be a
> good starting point. I'm definitely interested in what other people think.
>
> I do like the way Roweena Reed (founder of Industrial Design
> Program @ the Pratt Institute) spoke about "beauty", as the
> perfect combination of form meeting function. I don't have the
> quote handy now, but when I read it, it was like beauty was an
> "ah-ha" quality.
>
> I have had that with very few products. The iPod was definitely
> one (if not completely cliché at this point). I know I haven't
> had it with much software at all.
>
> It's almost like saying the response of beauty in product design
> is ... "I get it, and I want to make it part of my life."
>
> The question I have is, do the variables of the different
> qualities that make up "experience" need to change, not just by
> individual, but that individual within specific contexts or
> settings of expectation?
>
>
> -- dave
>
> David Heller
> http://synapticburn.com/
> http://ixdg.org
> dave at ixdg.org
> dave at synapticburn.com
> AIM: bolinhanyc || Y!: dave_ux || MSN: hippiefunk at hotmail.com
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Group!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixdg.org
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://discuss.ixdg.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixdg.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixdg.org
> Home ....................... http://ixdg.org/
> _______________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Group!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixdg.org
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://discuss.ixdg.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixdg.org/
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> Home ....................... http://ixdg.org/
>

10 May 2005 - 12:39pm
Robert Reimann
2003

> I do like the way Roweena Reed (founder of Industrial Design Program @ the Pratt Institute)
> spoke about "beauty", as the perfect combination of form meeting function.

I guess I see this definition of beauty as being a bit too... functional.
I understand what she's getting at, though, and "purpose" seems to me
a much more inclusive word than "function", since it implies human intent
and motivation, rather than mere mechanistic activity. Of course, it
doesn't alliterate quite as nicely. :^)

Such a definition of beauty is, however, fairly different from the
common understanding of the term, which is one of the reasons I
prefer to use the term "affect".

Robert.

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of David Heller
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 9:58 AM
To: ixd-discussion
Subject: [ID Discuss] Is beauty too deep?

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]

In my readings about aesthetics (thanx everyone for the great suggestions), I noticed a concentration on "beauty". Now I know from the formal side of the aesthetics community aesthetics is almost the philosophy of beauty. A noble academic goal indeed. But this line of reasoning feels a bit too academic and hard to make tangible into my day to day.

I wonder if "beauty" is not really the right noun to be thinking about and I wonder what word would best replace it with something as all encompassing, but less intangible. I mean beauty is right up there with love in being indefinable, yet ultimately well understood.

I think if we take Peter Morville's honeycomb as a starting point, and then try to define the "hive" itself, it might be a good starting point. I'm definitely interested in what other people think.

I do like the way Roweena Reed (founder of Industrial Design Program @ the Pratt Institute) spoke about "beauty", as the perfect combination of form meeting function. I don't have the quote handy now, but when I read it, it was like beauty was an "ah-ha" quality.

I have had that with very few products. The iPod was definitely one (if not completely cliché at this point). I know I haven't had it with much software at all.

It's almost like saying the response of beauty in product design is ... "I get it, and I want to make it part of my life."

The question I have is, do the variables of the different qualities that make up "experience" need to change, not just by individual, but that individual within specific contexts or settings of expectation?

-- dave

David Heller
http://synapticburn.com/
http://ixdg.org
dave at ixdg.org
dave at synapticburn.com
AIM: bolinhanyc || Y!: dave_ux || MSN: hippiefunk at hotmail.com

10 May 2005 - 1:00pm
Wendy Fischer
2004

I haven't read the readings on aesthetics. However I have been reading Norman's Emotional Design.

I think that beauty or an aesthetic is something that needs to be defined for users before a product is designed. It depends on the needs and goals of the users, the purpose of the product, the audience, etc. Beauty is also cultural, subjective and opinion. Beauty can be practical; it can also be highly impractical. Also, somebody may find beauty in something you don't think as beautiful.

What one culture sees as beautiful may not be beautiful in another culture.

-Wendy

"Reimann, Robert" <Robert_Reimann at bose.com> wrote:
[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]

> I do like the way Roweena Reed (founder of Industrial Design Program @ the Pratt Institute)
> spoke about "beauty", as the perfect combination of form meeting function.

I guess I see this definition of beauty as being a bit too... functional.
I understand what she's getting at, though, and "purpose" seems to me
a much more inclusive word than "function", since it implies human intent
and motivation, rather than mere mechanistic activity. Of course, it
doesn't alliterate quite as nicely. :^)

Such a definition of beauty is, however, fairly different from the
common understanding of the term, which is one of the reasons I
prefer to use the term "affect".

Robert.

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of David Heller
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 9:58 AM
To: ixd-discussion
Subject: [ID Discuss] Is beauty too deep?

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]

In my readings about aesthetics (thanx everyone for the great suggestions), I noticed a concentration on "beauty". Now I know from the formal side of the aesthetics community aesthetics is almost the philosophy of beauty. A noble academic goal indeed. But this line of reasoning feels a bit too academic and hard to make tangible into my day to day.

I wonder if "beauty" is not really the right noun to be thinking about and I wonder what word would best replace it with something as all encompassing, but less intangible. I mean beauty is right up there with love in being indefinable, yet ultimately well understood.

I think if we take Peter Morville's honeycomb as a starting point, and then try to define the "hive" itself, it might be a good starting point. I'm definitely interested in what other people think.

I do like the way Roweena Reed (founder of Industrial Design Program @ the Pratt Institute) spoke about "beauty", as the perfect combination of form meeting function. I don't have the quote handy now, but when I read it, it was like beauty was an "ah-ha" quality.

I have had that with very few products. The iPod was definitely one (if not completely cliché at this point). I know I haven't had it with much software at all.

It's almost like saying the response of beauty in product design is ... "I get it, and I want to make it part of my life."

The question I have is, do the variables of the different qualities that make up "experience" need to change, not just by individual, but that individual within specific contexts or settings of expectation?

-- dave

David Heller
http://synapticburn.com/
http://ixdg.org
dave at ixdg.org
dave at synapticburn.com
AIM: bolinhanyc || Y!: dave_ux || MSN: hippiefunk at hotmail.com
_______________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Group!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixdg.org
(Un)Subscription Options ... http://discuss.ixdg.org/
Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixdg.org/
Questions .................. lists at ixdg.org
Home ....................... http://ixdg.org/

10 May 2005 - 5:23pm
Robert Reimann
2003

> I am curious if people from different cultural backgrounds (and aesthetic
> inheritance) would regard and/or create 'affect' in the same manner as one
> another?

A good question. I'd be surprised if there weren't cultural
components to affect. That's one reason why understanding
context is so important.

Robert.

-----Original Message-----
From: Anastasia Fischer [mailto:afischer at eemedia.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 10:54 AM
To: Reimann, Robert; ixd-discussion
Subject: RE: [ID Discuss] Is beauty too deep?

It seems the equation 'beauty = form meets function' would fit with Robert's term 'affect'. The meeting of form and function has been considered an 'aesthetic' by many philosophers. I agree completely with Robert that battlefield software would be inappropriately designed if it was tastefully beautiful. And in my world bankers do not want their employees having software that is too visually enticing as they fear it would divert the worker bees from their drudging tasks (sad, but true)

Further, to support Robert's point, the discussion of aesthetics seems to be more a question for philosophy, while the discussion of appropriate 'affect' is more the focus of designers. I assume many designers have implicit education and/or awareness of aesthetics and the millennium of debates around them... they are inheritance that inevitably will impact how we perceive and imagine 'affect'.

That said I find most interesting the differences in cultural aesthetics. I am curious if people from different cultural backgrounds (and aesthetic
inheritance) would regard and/or create 'affect' in the same manner as one another?

Anastasia

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.co
> m
> [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
> ers.com]On Behalf Of Reimann, Robert
> Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 10:21 AM
> To: ixd-discussion
> Subject: RE: [ID Discuss] Is beauty too deep?
>
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
>
> I prefer talking about _affect_ than talking
> about beauty; i.e., about eliciting the
> appropriate psychological/emotional response
> for a particular context.
>
> Beauty, and the feelings of transcendence and
> a pleasure it evokes are really only a small
> part of the affective design palette... is it
> appropriate to make battlefield software or
> a radiation therapy system control surface
> "beautiful" per se? Or, for example, the Yucca
> Mountain nuclear waste warning monument?
>
> In my opinion, the affective aspects of design
> have long needed more explicit attention and
> analysis.
>
> Robert.
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigner
> s.com
> [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interaction
> designers.com] On Behalf Of David Heller
> Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 9:58 AM
> To: ixd-discussion
> Subject: [ID Discuss] Is beauty too deep?
>
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> In my readings about aesthetics (thanx everyone for the great
> suggestions), I noticed a concentration on "beauty". Now I know from
> the formal side of the aesthetics community aesthetics is almost the
> philosophy of beauty. A noble academic goal indeed. But this line of
> reasoning feels a bit too academic and hard to make tangible into my
> day to day.
>
> I wonder if "beauty" is not really the right noun to be thinking about
> and I wonder what word would best replace it with something as all
> encompassing, but less intangible. I mean beauty is right up there
> with love in being indefinable, yet ultimately well understood.
>
> I think if we take Peter Morville's honeycomb as a starting point, and
> then try to define the "hive" itself, it might be a good starting
> point. I'm definitely interested in what other people think.
>
> I do like the way Roweena Reed (founder of Industrial Design Program @
> the Pratt Institute) spoke about "beauty", as the perfect combination
> of form meeting function. I don't have the quote handy now, but when I
> read it, it was like beauty was an "ah-ha" quality.
>
> I have had that with very few products. The iPod was definitely one
> (if not completely cliché at this point). I know I haven't had it with
> much software at all.
>
> It's almost like saying the response of beauty in product design is
> ... "I get it, and I want to make it part of my life."
>
> The question I have is, do the variables of the different qualities
> that make up "experience" need to change, not just by individual, but
> that individual within specific contexts or settings of expectation?
>
>
> -- dave
>
> David Heller
> http://synapticburn.com/
> http://ixdg.org
> dave at ixdg.org
> dave at synapticburn.com
> AIM: bolinhanyc || Y!: dave_ux || MSN: hippiefunk at hotmail.com
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Group!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixdg.org (Un)Subscription Options
> ... http://discuss.ixdg.org/ Announcements List .........
> http://subscribe-announce.ixdg.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixdg.org
> Home ....................... http://ixdg.org/
> _______________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Group!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixdg.org (Un)Subscription Options
> ... http://discuss.ixdg.org/ Announcements List .........
> http://subscribe-announce.ixdg.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixdg.org
> Home ....................... http://ixdg.org/
>

10 May 2005 - 5:38pm
Ryan Nichols
2005

>And in my world bankers do not want their employees having software that is too visually enticing as they fear it would divert the worker bees from their drudging tasks (sad, but true)
>
>
>
I can't believe that. That's like saying 'Let's crank up the heat
because the agitation will help the employees focus better'.

Ryan Nichols
Apples To Oranges
http://www.apples-to-oranges.com

10 May 2005 - 5:49pm
Peter Bagnall
2003

> I wonder if "beauty" is not really the right noun to be thinking about
> and I
> wonder what word would best replace it with something as all
> encompassing,
> but less intangible. I mean beauty is right up there with love in being
> indefinable, yet ultimately well understood.

Slightly off to the side perhaps but I think the word you might be
looking for is elegance.

An elegant solution to a problem solves the problem without creating
any little tensions which then need to be solved by yet more design.
For me at least it does not imply aesthetics in the same way as beauty
does, it suggests something deeper. It's about solving the problem with
subtlety and the minimum of effort. I suppose graceful might be another
word that gets to the same ideas. Quality is closely related.

I would say elegance is the ah-ha trigger, not beauty. When form and
function match perfectly you have elegance. I would argue beauty
triggers an affect, whereas elegance is a more intellectual
appreciation. Something that looks ugly can still be an elegant
solution to the problem so long as it is a good, efficient, well
fitting solution.

I don't think it's possible to do good design without understanding
elegance and I don't think an appreciation of elegance is something
everyone has. It's something that has to be learnt by understanding the
medium, because without understanding the medium you can't see the
forces that have been balanced by the elegant solution. In other words
it's not obvious.

Beauty is of course much more visible!

Cheers
--Pete

----------------------------------------------------------
Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.
If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter
what fork you use.
- Emily Post

Peter Bagnall - http://people.surfaceeffect.com/pete/

10 May 2005 - 6:08pm
Anastasia Fischer
2004

> >And in my world bankers do not want their employees having
> software that is too visually enticing as they fear it would
> divert the worker bees from their drudging tasks (sad, but true)
> >
> >
> I can't believe that. That's like saying 'Let's crank up the heat
> because the agitation will help the employees focus better'.

Unfortunately I have heard this more than once... however NOT in reference
to usability (which they are eminently concerned with), more to the aspects
of design that would perhaps be more enticing than the task.

I mentioned this in support of Robert's comment about designing 'beautiful'
battlefield software. The bank managers are concerned that the 'aesthetic'
of the software support the task... highly aesthetically compelling
presentation of repetitive data entry hasn't been of interest to them.

Or perhaps it has just not been on the radar of their budgets ;)

-----------------
Anastasia Fischer
EEMedia.com
Customer Experience
Tel: 207.596.5549

Interaction Design Group!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixdg.org
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>

10 May 2005 - 6:04pm
Anjali Arora, NYU
2004

> >And in my world bankers do not want their employees having software that
is too visually enticing as they fear it would divert the worker bees from
their drudging tasks (sad, but true)

> I can't believe that. That's like saying 'Let's crank up the heat
> because the agitation will help the employees focus better'.

I'm wondering if this has something to do with the negative affect &
positive affect that Don Norman talks about. Negative affect creates anxiety
& fear in the mind, thus promoting narrow, focused thinking; whereas
positive affect broadens thinking but also makes people easily distracted,
so it's best for creative, problem-solving but probably not right for
detailed, clearly-defined, clearly-sequenced work.

And certainly there are cultural connotations to beauty & aesthetics.The
most recognizable element, color, provides a good example; NY has a huge
bias to gray & black, whereas countries such as India, or Mexico, or African
countries use bright colors with abandon:). But to add to the complexities,
there may also be the time factor: one doesn't always like bright colors or
the gray palette. What's right today is just too colorful tomorrow!!

-anjali

10 May 2005 - 6:07pm
Wendy Fischer
2004

Maybe this should go beyond defining elegance or beauty...

Maybe it is simplicity and transparency......

-wendy

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