The Beauty Part

by mo on Thursday, April 7, 2011

“In design, we have overlooked the degree to which beauty is a vital human need. It is an experience from which people have everything to gain and nothing to lose.” (Poynor 2006, p.44)

The above quote just about sums it up – like Poynor, I believe that designers have forgotten the importance of “beauty” – that no matter how functional or conceptually profound a design may be, it must always, be “beautiful”. For the past five years, I have found myself exposed to the world of design theory and can most definitely say that I am not adverse to it in essence. However, I suppose there has been a build up of resentment towards designers who fall into the trap of satisfying their own selfish desire to over-theorise, ultimately creating a design that functionally and conceptually collapses into itself, and is essentially inaccessible to the general public. More often or not, these failed designs are rendered even more of a failure by their lack of beauty – the designer’s mistake of overlooking the importance of making something look good. 

Quoting art critic, Dave Hickey, Poynor poses this question: “If images don’t do anything in this culture, if the haven’t done anything, then why are we sitting here in the twilight of the twentieth century talking about the?...this is why I direct your attention to the language of visual affect – to the rhetoric of how things look – to the iconography of desire – in a word, to beauty!” (Poynor 2006, p.43)

Some designers  might misconstrue an obsession with beauty to be equivalent to a lack of conceptual depth, but as Poynor points out, “it does not make you less intelligent. It gives you something to be intelligent about.”

At the conclusion, the article delineates the role of the designer and the intrinsic need of designers to make things beautiful: “Most people enter design because they love visual form, respond to it more acutely, perhaps, than to anything else, and want to manipulate it.”

Beauty is a concept that is difficult to grasp and to verbalise – but I guess that’s what design is for in the end, and as such, I hope that my design solution for the project pays homage to that poignant aspect of design:

“We are surrounded by it, but can’t bring ourselves to say what it is.”

Reference: Poynor, R. 2006, ‘The Beauty Part’, in Bierut, M., Drenttel, W. & Heller, S. 2006, Looking closer 5, Allworth Press, New York.

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