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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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