Design & Art is divided into 3 sections, the first of which is Paradigms. Most of the essays in this chapter are succinct, and Fisk and I have read through almost half the chapter already. Highlights so far are written by the obvious Paul Rand, Clement Greenberg and Norman Potter. Each bringing relevant ideas that set the tone and platform of design in its place. We've decided to start by talking about ...
Good Design: What is it for?//1957
This essay was broken up into short paragraphs that reached their points quite quickly. In the introduction Nelson lays out primary questions, where does design come from and how is it refined to a certain degree of excellence.
Fisk: With the first paragraph, Tradition vs Technology, Nelson is arguing that certain situations need to exist in order for design to occur. Religion for example, how to worship, who to worship to, something needs to be designed to achieve that. Because technology isn't advancing as quickly as tradition, the need for design for religious iconography becomes more predominant.
Natalie: Nelson mentions that technology is moving slowly, do you feel that this is reflection of this essay being dated? I don't feel like technology is moving slowly at all.
Fisk: No, because Nelson is talking about good design. Design in the whole spectrum of the word- Nelson means that things cups, ancient sculpture, a chair, these are all things that have been around and will continue to be around for a long time.
Natalie: So, what you're saying is, these well designed objects are evidence of our tradition, and that's why Nelson states, "tradition becomes the main guide toward suitable form, and design development tends to go on over generations."
Fisk: Yes, because he's saying that many well designed objects have, "persisted virtually unchanged over centuries and even millenia." The main idea, is that for design to emerge at all, a definite situation needs to exist. As a graphic designer, my clients present definite situations to me, that I then have to create a design for.
Natalie: This makes sense. You are creative problem solver. Tell me about why you liked the paragraph, The 'designer' need not be an individual.
Fisk: I thought it was rad that Nelson was saying that no one is an individual because everything is related. You could make award winning work, but it's all related to other work. The process, how it's created, the technology that's used, it's all related to something. Nelson says, "The reason good design is hard to come by is that its creation demands a high degree of emotional and intellectual maturity in the designer, and such people are not found too often."
Natalie: So collective intellectual and emotional maturity will produce a design that will last a lot longer.
Fisk: Yes, there is design that as a society or collective we propel forward, like the internet. As a society that uses the internet we will inherently push forward how a browser functions, through the social process of trial, selection and rejection. At the same time, there are individuals like Nikola Telsa- whose ideas changed how we use power, who have game changing ideas, but that kind of person is rare.
Natalie: So it seems like there are multiple ways in which design can present it's own needs. As a collective group requiring a particular functioning design, or individually where a person can change the rules so to speak, and design something that changes the playing field for everyone.
Fisk: Yes, this is how design progresses.
Natalie: It's interesting to think about the idea of a good design. So far you've used good design to describe designs that have a long lifetime traditionally. How does that compare to Nelson's discussion of the Roman chariot?
Fisk: Well, Nelson poses the question, which is the better design, the Roman chariot, or the Italian automobile. He's making the statement that design is relative to it's time period. One aspect of a good design is it's longevity, but this is not always true in regards to how it functions.
Natalie: So, what you're saying is that what's most functional is not always the best design? I can see why this essay is good at explaining a lot of the fundamentals behind design, the term 'good design' can apply to a variety of situations. Nelson says a lot in these small paragraphs. Do you think his efficiency, and efficiency over all is a characteristic of good design?
Fisk: Yes, the simplest designs are the most complex.
Natalie: It seems that way. I'm interested to see if the majority of these essays are going to be as efficiently written as this one.