Re: aesthetics and objectivity

29 Jan 2004 - 4:52pm
10 years ago
3 replies
394 reads
Andrew Otwell
2004

Bob Baxley wrote:

> I definitely take exception to this statement on two fronts. First, visual
> design is NOT subjective -- unless it's decoration, in which case it's not
> design. Design as a discipline and a grand tradition, is unimpeachably a
> practice of analytical problem solving.

And the line between the two is...where?

I think it's dangerous for a designer, or anyone for that matter, to
assume uncritically in "grand traditions", as if those traditions hadn't
been formed through misunderstandings, selective histoy-writing, cults
of personality, or simply to get a higher billing rate.

"designer as analyst" is no more and no less correct a characterization
than that of the "lone genius penniless artist, locked away in a
garret." It's a historical construct, and a limited stereotype.

Comments

29 Jan 2004 - 6:26pm
Bob Baxley
2004

Andrew...

I'd say the line is based on the motivations and approach of the
individuals involved. Again, I believe that the motivation of design is
to solve an identified and understood problem. By contrast, the
motivation of decoration is simply to attract attention. Of course, if
the problem being solved is to do nothing but attract attention then I
suppose you're at a bit of a stalemate.

When I was interviewing studios for a print project a few years back I
encountered a very strong contrast. One firm wanted to talk to me about
our company's brand, what we were trying to communicate, and what real
marketing problem we were trying to address. The other firm told us
that they had 10 designers on staff who would come up with 15
variations each and we could just sit down and pick out the one we
wanted.

Now you might argue that both were valid approaches but I would counter
that there was a fundamental difference between the problem-solving
approach and the "million monkeys" approach. The former offered
demonstrable value whereas the later struck me as an exercise in
throwing darts.

I'm not exactly sure what you're getting at with your last point. I
wish I had a better word than the generic "designer" (oh how I wish I
had a better word) but what I'm trying to say is that there exists a
grand tradition of designers-as-problem-solvers and it is that
tradition, which I choose to operate within and which I believe has the
most lasting value. Of course there are plenty of people we would think
of as designers in the generic sense, that don't fit this mold; Ralph
Lauren and Phillipe Stark are two examples. Again, for lack of a more
specific term, when I say "designer" I am thinking more of people like
Ray and Charles Eames or Paul Rand.

........................................................................
..
Bob Baxley :: Design for Interaction

design :: www.baxleydesign.com
blog :: www.drowninginthecurrent.com

On Jan 29, 2004, at 1:52 PM, Andrew Otwell wrote:

> Bob Baxley wrote:
>
>> I definitely take exception to this statement on two fronts. First,
>> visual
>> design is NOT subjective -- unless it's decoration, in which case
>> it's not
>> design. Design as a discipline and a grand tradition, is
>> unimpeachably a
> > practice of analytical problem solving.
>
> And the line between the two is...where?
>
> I think it's dangerous for a designer, or anyone for that matter, to
> assume uncritically in "grand traditions", as if those traditions
> hadn't been formed through misunderstandings, selective
> histoy-writing, cults of personality, or simply to get a higher
> billing rate.
>
> "designer as analyst" is no more and no less correct a
> characterization than that of the "lone genius penniless artist,
> locked away in a garret." It's a historical construct, and a limited
> stereotype.
>
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29 Jan 2004 - 6:36pm
Chris Heathcote
2004

On Thursday, January 29, 2004, at 11:26 pm, Bob Baxley wrote:

> Andrew...
>
> I'd say the line is based on the motivations and approach of the
> individuals involved. Again, I believe that the motivation of design
> is to solve an identified and understood problem. By contrast, the
> motivation of decoration is simply to attract attention. Of course, if
> the problem being solved is to do nothing but attract attention then I
> suppose you're at a bit of a stalemate.

Attention is part of the interaction. Industrial designers spend their
time trying to make things that look and feel right. Why should it be
different in the digital domain?

Have a look at Don Norman's latest book (Emotional Design) for
arguments about how 'wallpaper' makes products more usable.

http://www.jnd.org/books.html

(and here's a review I wrote about the book -
http://undergroundlondon.com/antimega/archives/000941.html )

c.

29 Jan 2004 - 10:31pm
Bob Baxley
2004

Totally agree that getting attention is part of the interaction. Here's =20=

my favorite quote on the topic...

=93In a world rife with unsolicited messages, typography must often draw =
=20
attention to itself before it will be read. Yet in order to be read, it =20=

must relinquish the attention it has drawn. Typography with anything to =20=

say therefore aspires to a kind of statuesque transparency. Its other =20=

traditional goal is durability: not immunity to change, but a clear =20
superiority to fashion. Typography at its best is a visual form of =20
language linking timelessness and time.=94
-- Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style: Version =20
2.4,=A0p17

Although we don't often make the analogy, I think interaction design =20
and typography have quite a bit in common.

My point from the quote you snipped however was that design doesn't try =20=

to garner attention solely for attention's sake. Design, if it is to be =20=

meaningful, has to be something more than crass shouting.

...Bob

........................................................................=20=

..
Bob Baxley :: Design for Interaction

design :: www.baxleydesign.com
blog :: www.drowninginthecurrent.com

On Jan 29, 2004, at 3:36 PM, Chris Heathcote wrote:

>
> On Thursday, January 29, 2004, at 11:26 pm, Bob Baxley wrote:
>
>> Andrew...
>>
>> I'd say the line is based on the motivations and approach of the =20
>> individuals involved. Again, I believe that the motivation of design =20=

>> is to solve an identified and understood problem. By contrast, the =20=

>> motivation of decoration is simply to attract attention. Of course, =20=

>> if the problem being solved is to do nothing but attract attention =20=

>> then I suppose you're at a bit of a stalemate.
>
> Attention is part of the interaction. Industrial designers spend their =
=20
> time trying to make things that look and feel right. Why should it be =20=

> different in the digital domain?
>
> Have a look at Don Norman's latest book (Emotional Design) for =20
> arguments about how 'wallpaper' makes products more usable.
>
> http://www.jnd.org/books.html
>
> (and here's a review I wrote about the book -
> http://undergroundlondon.com/antimega/archives/000941.html )
>
> c.
>
> _______________________________________________
> Interaction Design Discussion List
> discuss at interactiondesigners.com
> --
> to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest): =20
> http://discuss.interactiondesigners.com
> --
> Questions: lists at interactiondesigners.com
> --
> Announcement Online List (discussion list members get announcements =20=

> already)
> http://interactiondesigners.com/announceList/
> --
> http://interactiondesigners.com/
>

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