FINAL WORD: Design as Cheesecake


I must first commend Colin on his talk that he gave. That was a difficult thing to do and he pulled it off in a way that was satisfying to everyone including me. Though y'all may disagree, this post on an alternative view of design might reveal that it is not just mindless or trendy blather, but a well thought out philosophy.

1. Designing in the sense of adding balance, contrast, cohesion etc. to a composition is pleasing to humans because it pushes the pleasure buttons in our brains. The pleasure is universal to humans because our brains evolved the same way. Designing is no different from adding chemicals together to make cheesecake. Cheesecake pushes the pleasure buttons in our brains too, but there is no truth in cheesecake. This may seem to degrade design in a way because it takes it out of a "divine realm" but it also glorifies design in another way by revealing the awe and complexity of our brains as it reacts to pleasurable designs that contain geometry and decoration.

2. Designing in the sense of communicating is simply a technology for spreading information. There is no inherent truth in technology, though there may be truth in the message it is communicating. If design is communicating something valuable like the gospel, then design can help change the world. But, most designers are too afraid to communicate the gospel through design outright. Designers spend their time designing, which means that they did not use that time to get trained in economics, politics, philosophy, and the law. This tends to make designers who make political statements look silly to those who were trained in those areas just as an economist would look silly if he tried to design something. My critique is that designers are good at invoking emotion but they leave out the logic in their "social commentary".

3. Good design has no inherent truth in it. Good design is simply design that fulfills it's purpose, whatever that purpose may be. There may be objectively good or bad purposes such as spiritual purposes vs. carnal purposes.

4. Design can be pleasurable as it interacts with our innate human nature (our minds). But, it can also be subjective to the viewer as it may invoke different associations or symbols that relate to the unique memories and experiences of the viewer. Basically, although we are born with the same pleasure buttons in our brains, some tastes can be acquired and are therefore subjective (or relative).

5. Design as art is useless to human progress just as cheesecake is practically useless except you can eat cheesecake. ( But, useless things, paradoxically, can be highly useful for a certain purpose—appraising the assets of the bearer of useless things. Rich people buy art and inaccessible design to show off their status. Universal tastes that are liked by most people such as realistic decorations of plants and animals, are generally disdained by the elite. As Adrian says, "It is just fluff...pedestrian...mere decoration... color is nothing but an embellishment.." But, universally, "the masses" prefer decoration, organic embellishment, and color. (Probably because it is reflective of the environment that our ancestors evolved in—the savannah) Most graphic designers in my experience are elitist. Their connoisseurship of difficult and inaccessible works of culture serves as a badge in society's upper strata. Therefore, design as art has done more to fragment people into classes, than to unify them.

I am sympathetic to these ideas because they are logical and useful. I would change my view upon better arguments to the contrary, but I have not found them. When I asked Adrian directly about truth in design, he tried to explain but didn't make any sense to me. If you remove the emotions (that we have invested so much of our time in design), does it really make logical sense to you?


We're Nocturnal

No surprises here but it made me smile all the same.
11PM Monday night and everybody's just warming up.