When you walk into a magnificent building - Pei"s Ball State Alumni Center in Muncie, Graves" Indianapolis Art Center or Hess" Eiteljorg Museum - you get a little lift. Whoa. I"m gettin" off, are you gettin" off?
Indianapolis Art Center
If a place or a thing is really well-designed, you"re appropriately stimulated: This is cool, the whole world is cool, we"re cool for being here. Let"s buy something. (This is why some restaurants and stores can charge so much.) Great design is a rush - one we deserve to feel more often, and for all the right reasons. We should have more of it here in Indy. Seems like the way to get it is to learn about it, talk about it, demand it. But first we have to know the language. See, design is a mode of communication. It talks to you all the time. We all talk back - design is supposed to be a dialogue with the user. It"s just that most of us are relegated to aesthetic baby-talk. No one ever gave us a good design vocabulary. Your response to design right now is probably something subconscious. But you can move easily from the feelings you have about design encounters into conscious thought and talk about them. It"s like anything else - you just have to practice. The words and concepts that make it possible for us to evaluate and speak intelligently about our surroundings are pretty straightforward. They deal with universal truths you"ve always known. You can get in the habit of thinking about what makes one object, room, shirt or haircut better than another. Here are some basic criteria to use. Design lingo Problem/solution: What problems were the makers trying to solve, and how"d they do? Function: How well does the object fulfill its primary, then secondary functions? (The function of clothing could be first, to cover your body and second, to make you look more attractive.) Structure and materials: Well-chosen materials? Quality workmanship? Durable and cost-appropriate? Aesthetics: One expert says that in an ideal world, every space (or object) we use would be designed not just to serve its purpose, but to offer a satisfying and memorable sensory experience. There are standards for aesthetic quality, or the public wouldn"t agree that Notre Dame is a good-looking church, or that the harvest moon is really something. The key to understanding aesthetics is to move away from thinking about "situational" beauty (popular fashion or what your mother taught you, for example) toward universal beauty (such as the beauty we see in nature). Hierarchy: Did the designer successfully explain what"s important, and what isn"t? Does one area move smoothly into the next? Context: Does the design work well with its surroundings? Balance: Symmetry is pleasing in certain situations, but too much of it can be numbing. Asian design tends to use asymmetry well. Point + line = rhythm: A clustering of objects creates stopping points. Lines create mood and movement. Does the design make good music? Then there"s color ... Ö and shape, size, texture, pattern, proportion, harmony. The point is, these are all simple words and concepts. And when you think about it, you also understand, and can articulate, the very specific effects that various combinations of the above have on your brain. Why bother? Well, it"s something to do at parties. And once we learn the language of design, we can use it to get more of the good stuff. You in?