I use writing to dissect and understand design theory. The more I write, the more I understand or create an understanding of. Have something to add or just want to make a comment? Write me and let me know.

Plato’s Cave

I was describing Plato’s cave to someone the other night and how it changed my perspective on other’s perspective and innovation. It just really made me think all over again on how we go about designing. That’s a pretty broad statement, let me explain.

Let’s say that you, as a designer, could remember being chained against the wall in Plato’s cave. You also remember being let go, exiting the cave, and in leaving, saw what life actually looked like. You saw what made that shadow that is all you know to this point. How would this one experience change you as a designer? I believe it would be sub conscious. Because we see things we don’t recognize all the time, just to a different degree. In leaving the cave for the first time, you may be stuck on the new visuals in front of you long after you have moved on from the moment of exit. Maybe even a year or two but sub consciously, this experience would always be with you. No one except you would have ever experienced seeing something with no past exposure to anything like it ever in the history of the world. Again, how would this change how you innovate?

I first had this thought when the guy I was talking to said something kind of interesting relating to this topic. He says, “you can never un-see what you’ve seen.” The irony of the fact that every designer kind of wishes they could un-see so many things, thus releasing them from the limitations of what they already know. From what influences their design decisions.

Truth is logical and believable also, relative to the persons perception. Truth is what actually is. What is truth to you may not be truth to me. Your past experiences and views that you have lived by have shaped your perception on what is truth or what actually is. Some people say, “stay true to yourself”. By doing so, you may not be willing to accept new views and will stay chained up in the Plato’s cave. Though it is understandable that when you exit the cave, what you see does not appear true and actual! Perception is a major part of seeing the “truth”. If you were born in a cave and have only seen the human figure as a shadow your whole life, then stepping out of the cave may make everything seem “out of place”. Part of design is putting things in their place. Anyone can arrange things out of place, but as a designer, it’s your job to put things into place using principles of design as well as inspiration from the organic aspects of the world around us. The principles and inspiration from nature allow us to create truths that most people would agree, look nice. So while truth may be based on perception, it also seems like there is a method to making a universal truth.

“If the truths become smashed were they ever truths in the first place? How do you rely on “truths” that will not be “smashed” so as to eliminate the need to start over? Maybe we need to think about the difference between absolute truth and perception. Should designs be based on perception (individual experiences)? How much value should we give perception in design? As a designer you are more of an interpreter of information than a regergitator of emotions, desires, and perceptions. If your information and research is valid and strong then the basis of design is starting on the right foot. So much of design begins before the designing starts.” – Pablo Wenceslao


Diagrams – From the readings Diagram: An Original Scene of Writing

I used to think of a diagram as a couple of different things that are actually the same thing. First, I would describe a diagram as a picture showing an object in parts. This would usually be informational meaning it would have each part of the object broken down and described in some detail on the function of the part. Diagrams could also be used to show how to operate or assemble something in a similar way that it describes parts. Really, a diagram is a much more physical thing and has a very vital role in architecture. It can be described as an agency. To me this idea makes it seem like a group of people with a few jobs that permeated each other. The first was the author, second was the object, and the third was the receiving subject. More importantly, it focuses this relationship. Without the diagram, we could still have the building, and we would know that someone had to have created it and lastly, someone would be viewing it and receiving whatever history the object presents. But the diagram is what fuses all of this together in one place, making it possible to make the connection between author, subject, and consumer.

// In theory the potential becomes the actual. A windmill is placed in the middle of a field. It has the potential to build energy from the wind driving the turbine. If there is no windmill, is there still potential?

// When describing objects for design purposes, it is more useful to use verbs in the place of adjectives. Spontaneous symbolism describes the dynamic qualities of shape. It invokes qualities of shape.

The parts that make up

The end product should be simple. But only simple to use or how it functions. Making complicated functions simple and elegant for a user is the challenge as a designer. Computers used to be very complicated and elaborate looking machines. And they still are. Thanks to technological advances they have gotten smaller. But if you open the case up, they are just as or more complicated than they used to be before IBM or Apple decided to put a case and power button on the front of them.

Instrument vs Ornament – From the readings of – The Industrial Design Reader

The use of ornament in design has nothing to do with making someone like a piece of work or not. In fact, a piece of work is exactly what an ornament does to an object. The object no longer relays its message to the user by its form. This is because the object is dominated by the ornament in directing the user. Dieter Rams states that ornament is a designer’s self-expression and this gets in the way of the products expression of its function.

Another instance of ornament being a downfall to aesthetic appeal is tattoos. Certain ornaments can have a very powerful meaning to a culture such as the religious cross or facial tattoos. Though, I believe that this view on ornament is much more relative to the cultures perception and ancient beliefs. In an American culture, tattoos are, for the most part, no longer seen as being gang or crime related. Where in a place like Europe or Japan, to have a sleeve of tattoos signifies you are a cold-blooded gang member.

The aspect I think is very important about ornament is the fact that it creates some sort of meaning outside of what it is attached to. And meaning can change as time continues and becomes history.
A field where ornament is commonly seen is in mass production. Something like glass beads which are produced over and over again, with small imperfections, only to be used in combination with other ornaments. The meaning of each individual glass bead would not be apparent when looking at the necklace it composes. Further more, the producer of the glass bead would most likely not have any thought or emotional connection to the making or the use of it.

The last aspect of ornament I thought was really important is the potential to create something greater in value than the material it is made with. Making something out of nothing is what ornaments are best at. Taking an object that has no use and making it worth something. The argument against this is that an object with a clear function is already worth more than the materials it is made with except for one instance. Take a ring or other ornament that is made with a rare material. Here the rarity of material holds the value, not the function or the look of the ring. Though in some instances a look, or fashion statement can be the cause of driving cost, making ornamentation more influential to design then the instrumental use of the object.

Arguments for instrument over ornament – Inspired by Dieter Rams

It’s more important for the product to be as neutrally designed as possible, leaving self-expression to the those using them. Because, ornamental is a designers self-expression versus expressing the products function. Ornament creates a sense of fashion which is a rapidly changing field thus, out dating products quickly. The ornament creates a superficial like from the user. Overall, it changes the meaning of the object. The problem here is that meaning changes as time moves forward and becomes history. Most importantly, can the object communicate it’s use?

Well designed

Respond or negate – Original Context

By responding to the surrounding or original context of an environment, what is given, will be used. Whether that is land structure, materials, surrounding technology, or foundation. To negate the original context of a building environment, you move away from the initial given context. Both are useful and should be combined in almost every project. Without one, a design should be considered incomplete. With objects we have to be able to relate (respond) to the object with some kind of familiarity. But we must also be inspired and questioned by it in a practical way (negate).I can only base my truth of what good design is, off of my personal aesthetic. A personal aesthetic shows what you believe to be important and portrays this in a way that others can see what you’ve made and draw their own conclusions. It may be objectionable whether or not what you have come up with is good design, but good design is universal. Meaning that expressing your personal aesthetic in good design, means you cannot only use what you see as true, but must also, “come out of the cave” and explore what else could be actual. Only then will others view it as good design, making it universal.

When it comes to peoples best interests getting in the way, a lot of the time now, especially younger people, will buy something or “see good design” in something because it is trendy. So, that is not to say that they aren’t making their own decisions, but sometimes it seems like someone’s best interest is someone else’s.