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Beauty: A Manifesto

Beauty in design is a topic rarely discussed in depth.  It is based on the notion of perception, the process by which organisms interpret and organize sensation to produce a meaningful experience.The act of perception occurs frequently in our daily life, and often subconsciously.  I recently experienced a work titled Disc, a 6’ tall circular form, by the American designer Jonathan Muecke.  As I approached the work, I was not analyzing the design process or symbology of the piece, but rather the ambiguous black mass acted as a gravitational force on my body.  My chest felt tight; my hands grew moist.  Was this the feeling of beauty?

Philosophers and psychologists often question the definition of beauty. I find the most intriguing view coming from the English art critic, John Ruskin.  Ruskin states, “The most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance.”  In professions frequently focused on function, design and architecture often stray from the element of beauty.  I believe it is crucial for the design profession, especially now in difficult cultural and environmental troubles, to embrace architectural peacocks such as Muecke’s Disc.

 

1. Peter Lindsay & Donald A. Norman: Human Information Processing: An Introduction to Psychology, 1977.

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Rock

Porcelain

Rock is a reference to the first known man-made object of beauty, the Acheulian hand axe.  The axes were not used for function, but rather produced for their beauty.  Rock is an abstracted interpretation produced in porcelain, an ironically delicate material.  The notion of beauty is carried out in the pure teardrop form, basic symmetry, and subtle clues of handcraft.

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