Artistic Design Going From the Physical World to the Cyber Realm
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(Image by Patty Talavera
While we in the tech world we are often focused on cutting edge innovation, just as important as innovation itself is the manner in which the innovation is presented. People are drawn to an item be it a car, a computer, or a website not simply if it provides utility to the end-user, but if it is pleasant to look at. Therefore, we should look to design to gain a more complete understanding as to how innovation can be delivered in a manner that is palatable to end-users. Product designers who specialize in combining functionality with design must be multi-disciplinary, having both the ability to be methodical while also designing products that are aesthetic.
Taking a step back, it is apparent that design in new mediums of technology is just as important as design in a product like furniture or a sports car.
Indeed, Apple became a trillion-dollar company not by offering better software than its competitors but by introducing a personal computer that is considered the epitome of beauty.
It extended its clean, minimalist, design to iPods and cell phones and due to the demand for its elegant products is on track to become one of the world’s first trillion-dollar companies.
Indeed, I asked Danish product designer Kris Mikkelsen for his insights on tech design. He believed that Apple’s ‘uncompromisingly timeless and universal aesthetics, focused on combining function and beauty, while devoid of trend’ allowed it to become a powerful company.
Tesla has similarly spurred demand for electric vehicles by creating elegant automobiles that rival German sports cars in beauty. The greatest companies of the 21st century are those that develop products that not simply revolutionary but also beautiful.
Unfortunately, many in Silicon Valley do not recognize the complexity of the human experience; for example, the executives at Facebook did not consider the possibility that social networking platforms might be hijacked by adversaries to the United States in the 2016 election which allowed Russia to interfere in our election via fake news.
Narrow-minded thinking can be indispensable in developing complex technologies but it prevents people from considering the big picture as it pertains to complex social systems or developing a desirable product.
In recognizing the importance of design in developing a product, it becomes necessary to next draw on inspirations in the unwired world. Perhaps product designers ought to borrow from furniture designers first before proceeding with designing a website or product. No furniture movement has seen as much success as that which originated in northern Europe.
Scandinavian furniture is marked by a focus on clean, simple lines, minimalism, and functionality without sacrificing beauty. Today, we choose furniture if it exhibits the sort of minimalism that was initially introduced by Scandinavian design.
The furniture store Ikea has leveraged the success of the design movement to become a furniture juggernaut and now Scandinavian furniture can be found in every well-designed home. The mere-exposure effect may explain in part why Scandinavian design has become so enmeshed in our contemporary lives.
According to social scientist Edward B. Titchener, people feel a ‘glow of warmth’ when they are exposed to something that is familiar. People have a preference for those things that are familiar to them. Given that we place such an emphasis on functionality in the modern age we will only see more minimalist furniture, which will, in turn, make such furniture familiar and pleasant.
Part of a new generation of product designers, Kris Mikkelsen is infusing pragmatism and aesthetics
Similarly, product design can borrow from Scandinavian art by incorporating functionality into their products. Some cutting edge product designers already see that the simplistic design motifs which allowed Scandinavian furniture to become embraced by homeowners around the world can be translated into product design.
For example, the expert Danish product designer Kristoffer Mikkelsen told me that ‘industrial design is closely related to digital product design in the sense that it’s fundamentally utilitarian.’
For example, danish designer Arne Jacobsen combines bold colors with minimalist shapes in his furniture so that they are aesthetic besides being functional. Similarly, Mikkelsen infuses bold colors with natural minimalist shapes in his prints and UI.
Careful design can turn functional goods into works of art.
From left to right: a chair by Danish furniture designer Arne Jacobsen combines minimalism with a flash of color.
Inspired by Jacobsen, contemporary designer Mikkelsen combines natural shapes with bold colors.
Alternatively, functional items can help create works of art. While computer programming paved the way for the internet, it has also helped create new mediums of artistic expression. For example, the aforementioned designer Mikkelsen built an app that aggregates the faces submitted by users to showcase the reflection of an entire community and celebrate diversity.
The aggregation of humanity’s diversity is only possible via computer code. Works of art such as these show that even in the 21st century, we strive to invoke beauty and not simply functionality.
The human existence is becoming more and more complicated due to the new products that have come into existence.
A work of art by Mikkelsen appreciates the complexity of humankind
Today, the technology industry is dominated by left-brained individuals. They use their methodical thinking to create useful products that are rapidly changing society.
Yet humans are creative and prize products that go beyond simply offering utility.
This human tendency to create beauty gave rise to great works of art like the Mona Lisa in the 3rd millennium. We should safeguard our tendency to create beauty in the technologies we invent in the 4th millennium.
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