Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Recognising the value of design...

Chuck Green is one of those names (a bit like Chris Pirillo) that has been around, sharing their wisdom, since before the dot com bubble burst - I first came across Chuck Green in 1999 and even then he managed to make plain old HTML look pretty good.

Anyway, I have been recieving Chuck's emails for a while, but today's was so especially interesting that I have decided to share a chunk with you:

To those who don't recognize the value of graphic design... »

I got a plea for help the other day. A designer who frequents this blog had shared a recent post with an engineer friend and the reply was a bit condescending. The post, "The talent that makes a good designer great," points to an engineer who I thought was particularly innovative. My purpose in drawing attention to him was to emphasize the importance of the same type of innovative thinking to the field of graphic design.

The essence of the engineer's response was they saw little correlation between the skills of an engineer and those of a graphic designer. How could that type of innovation, they posed, have anything to do with a designer's sense of style, their ability to choose typefaces, their knowledge of color, and so on. After all, the subject of my post, the engineer asserted, was a PhD candidate.

I laughed out loud. Every designer has had (or will have) this conversation. At its root is the implication that devoting one's career to the design of communications and an interest in the aesthetic is somehow less of a calling than some other, more significant field of endeavor.

My response is this:

The ergonomics and aesthetics of design are to engineering what taste is to food.

Remove the aesthetic qualities (style, organization, presentation) of the clothing you wear, the book you are reading, the automobile you drive, the room in which you spend your time, and so on, and all you have left is...function.

It is important for every student of design (and engineering) to recognize and appreciate the importance of form to function and vice versa. And it is equally important to understand that to be a exceptional practitioner of either discipline requires out-of-the-ordinary instincts, curiosity, knowledge, craft, and so on.

Lots of people view art and science as a comfortable coexistence. But for those who are particularly attuned to one or the other, it is good to remember that the most debilitating form of blindness is to minimize the way in which others see. It is not only a sure way to limit your potential--it is a certain and swift strategy for diminishing your influence.

An example of substance without style...

Reminds me of a conversation I had with an engineer on this very blog. Thankfully my engineer friend is open minded to the value of aesthetics, just as I see function as being fundamental too.