Design vs. Art


For quite some time now I am an avid reader of Maeda’s SIMPLICITY blog, a constant source of inspiration. But it took me nearly as long to buy his small book on “The Laws of Simplicity”. In many ways the book does not contain anything new to me (as I had been warned of). Most of its content I already have learned over time. But—you already saw this ‚but‘ coming, don’t you?—it is necessary to be reminded of those things from time to time and to take your time reflecting on those experiences and lessons learned. What strikes me most is the concentrated and fresh view, interwoven with personal believes and insights, which in the end made it so accessible and easy to relate to. It was definitely a worthwhile read!

Over the last year my private and my research life—btw, for a scientist: can there be a difference between private and research life?—gravitates towards art and design (see, for example, my actual project proposal Mnemosyne). So, John Maeda’s differentiation of art from design struck a chord in me, helping me a great deal in grasping the concepts:

“The best art makes your head spin with question. Perhaps this is the fundamental distinction between pure art and pure design. While great art makes you wonder, great design makes things clear.” (“The Laws of Simplicity”, p. 70)

As a researcher, your head most of the time spins with questions. Viewing part of one’s research as art and some the resulting systems as art work could serve as a way of channelling questions. From those pieces of art one then can work towards design, towards making things clear. This viewpoints allows for more personal freedom in approaching complicated or overwhelming research questions. Look at the problem from a (probably naïve) artistic and fun point of view. Play with the research questions! Use your right, synthesis-oriented half of your brain instead of your left, more analytic half. The ten “laws” then help channel one’s efforts.

These are, by no means, breathtakingly new insights. Research work is always about asking questions and coming up with reproducible results and valid evaluations using the right tools and approved methods. But looking at research from an art/design viewpoint makes it a tad more interesting and a bit more fun, at least for me 😉

[composed and posted with ecto]

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  1. Pingback: Design versus Art « relationary

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