BEAUTY

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By Mark Dziersk, FIDSA Guest Editor

As senior vice president of design,Mark Dziersk is responsible for all aspects of industrial design management at HLB. He also has worked as a consultant for several leading design firms and as an adjunct professor at Rhode Island School of Design and the New England School of Art & Design. He holds an MFA in industrial design from the University of Michigan.

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Why is it that sometimes we just have to have a certain product? The first PowerBook had it; the latest titanium PowerBook has it. The runaway success of: the Miata, the Audi TT; enter them into the exclusive category of products that are wildly successful, desired— even lusted after—by more than just a few people. In many cases these products command a premium before they are introduced. Sometimes even those intimately involved in their development don’t see it coming. Why don’t all new products have that magic—that certain allure? Perhaps it has to do with being the first, or the smallest, or the most beautiful. Perhaps sometimes the key factor is timing. Eames chairs had it, lost it and now have it again. The Corbusier Chaise has always had it.

+ DESIRE
Is “it” beauty? When is it more than beauty? In this issue of Innovation, we offer to you a better understanding of this mysterious phenomena. From Tucker Viemeister’s insightful adaptation of Maslow’s theory to Clive Dilnot’s academic dissection of the word beauty, this collection of articles contains a unique analysis of a topic of great significance. We ask and answer many important questions. How does technology enter into the equation? Enabling technology, manufacturing technology? Newness? Uniqueness? Appliances in cars? Can “it” be quantified or codified? The obvious advantage of being able to get our arms around what seems at first so subjective is to be able to execute that “it” quality repeatedly. Also included in this issue you will find an explanation of beauty based on its mathematical roots, the trends that define recent product successes, and tips for executing designs that transcend expectations of success. In a down economy juxtaposed with the seriousness of recent events, exploring this topic may seem luxurious. Practical advice seems to better fit the order of the day. But this is a time of greatly renewed interest in design, especially by businesses looking for a competitive edge. Ten years ago, when finance and distribution ruled the agenda, this topic probably would have been avoided. Today it must be analyzed and understood to broaden our understanding and to raise new issues of dialogue and debate. When the economy and some form of normalcy return, I believe designers will be drinking from a fire hose. When this happens, everyone is going to want the products they make and the services they offer to achieve “it.” One of the unspoken secrets in working on behalf of IDSA is to direct each effort into a subject matter that you yourself crave to know more about. This ensures that your effort is always rewarding. I have always been very curious about why some products have “it,” what exactly “it” is and how “it” can be bottled, so to speak. Through this assignment as guest editor, I have gained a much better understanding. After you’ve read and absorbed the insights and suggestions of these very talented authors, I hope you will also.

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By Tucker Viemeister, FIDSA

Tucker Viemeister is heading up Springtime-USA,a new industrial design studio associated with the young Dutch group in Amsterdam.Tucker was one of the founders of Smart Design,opened frogdesign’s NewYork studio in 1997 and was executive vice president of research and development at Razorfish.E-mail:Tucker@springtime.nl.

BEAUTILITY

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long with speed and size, beauty is a strong mechanism for creating product lust. Sensuous feel, attractive looks, smooth function, fine crafts-

manship, elegant materials—any one of these attributes builds a bridge to the user and creates an emotional bond, transforming an object into an object of desire. But the formula is not easy to apply: Beauty is to function as making love is to lust. Lust is trashy. (Gee, I feel like I’m writing some pulp romance here!) It’s one of those seven deadly sins. But a certain level of lust is necessary for good love making, and more important, beauty is a necessary component of a fulfilled life.

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As a nation, Americans don’t value beauty enough. It doesn’t rank high on our list of daily needs. We don’t discuss it much (unless we’re talking about cosmetics or celebrities). We aren’t very beauty literate. So let’s discuss it now.…

ty.” I want people to realize that even in our mercenary world, beauty is good to create. Beautility is a new way of framing beauty, as something that serves a function, that elevates it to the bottom line.

The Beauty Experts Beauty: The Goal of Civilization
Even though we all think we know what is beautiful, there is no consensus. We can’t agree on specific examples, but we do share a general formula for beauty: Beauty is a combination of very pleasing sensual and cerebral stuff. There is an intellectual component to a beautiful person and an emotional component to a beautiful mathematical proof. The experience of beauty is the result of convergence of body, mind and soul. Form and function melt together. Art and science dance. It’s hard to argue with “natural beauty.” Everyone is awed by breathtaking landscapes, colorful flowers and delicate butterflies. The trick comes when people try to make beautiful things. A beautiful manmade thing produces a different kind of pleasure; it somehow taps into the order of the universe. Making beautiful things makes our lives worthwhile. Rowena Reed Kostellow, one of founders of Pratt’s industrial design program, once said, “Pure, unadulterated beauty should be the goal of civilization.” Why do Americans give beauty second-class priority? Clear the forest, build a barn, build a highway. Eat your dinner, then you can have dessert. Although beauty is hard to quantify and may not be a necessity, it is not a luxury either. Beauty has a practical purpose in our lives. It has utility. That’s why I have coined the word “beautiliDesigners are experts in the application of beauty. We have the talent and training to enhance the function, look and feel of products. For the past few decades, however, designers have been more concerned with the job of making things work better. Engineering and ergonomics and marketing have soaked up the designer’s attention. This becomes obvious when looking at the IDEA winners. But regardless of how important the measures of innovation and environmental impact are, beau ty is the number one criteria for good design. Designers may do a lot of other things (research, strategy, branding, marketing), but in the product development cycle, designers are the only ones with the ability and practice to make things look good. At Pratt I learned to understand the structure of visual relationships and how to manipulate forms. I learned how to critique form and how to create a good one. Designers shape the world! We make things work well and look beautiful—we’ve always combined intellectual and sensual. Design is the convergence of science and art. Designers seem to forget: The design professions are the only ones (perhaps besides plastic surgeons) whose job it is to create beauty. We are key players in the beauty business. It is important for us not to shy away from style. We must not abdicate our role in making the world a better-looking place.

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The Beauty Spectrum
From a pragmatic point of view, for something to be beautiful, it has to work. Or even better, something has to work to be beautiful. The Brooklyn Bridge exists only because of its function, but it is beautiful. In fact, function was so important to the Pilgrims and their Puritan ethics, beauty was almost a sin. Viennese Architect Adolf Loos declared, “Decoration is a crime!” Even today, Americans find it hard to spend money on beauty or hiring an art teacher for their kids. Luckily, architect Louis Sullivan gave beauty some practical significance. “Form follows function,” he declared. Form and function are big criteria for that scientific, rational, functionalist, intellectual, objective view, but that’s only one end of the aesthetics spectrum. At the other end of the spectrum is the emotional view—art. Feelings and sensation blur together in people’s minds, disconnecting from practical needs. Sunsets, flowers, Barbie: all beautiful. It is not practical function that makes natural wonders beautiful. People say a bouquet of roses is beautiful. (Of course, you can make them more beautiful by adding a stuffed teddy bear!) Shiny things are beautiful; if they are gold, they are even more beautiful! Sparkly things like diamonds and rubies are beautiful. The most sensual thing is a beautiful person. When humans make beauty, it is a balance between the physical, sensual, emotional and intellectual. It’s a combination of art and science. The Eiffel Tower: functionally sublime, beautiful rivets and girders—yet totally irrational and emotionally fulfilling! The French went to great lengths and expense to build that tower. They understand that beauty is valuable in itself. (After all, Paris is synonymous with fashion.) Contemplating a beautiful thing makes people feel good;it inspires, heals and invigorates. Pure beauty has practical worth. Style is substance.

Beauty’s Worth
Adolf Loos was wrong. Decoration is not a crime, it’s a job! Although decoration is applied to the surface, it is valuable. Some of the good reasons to add decoration are: s Continuity: to connect things across different materials; s Camouflage: to disguise poor workmanship; s Sign: to signify ownership or to add meaning with brand logos or religious symbols; s Attractiveness: to make it prettier or just to add embellishment. In my work, beauty has two reasons for being: to help sell stuff, and just to be wonderful. Theoretically, a better-looking thing sells better than an ugly one. It’s attractive, therefore it attracts! So, making things beautiful helps business. (Although designers often disagree with clients and consumers about which design is more beautiful.) Designers usually don’t get to create something simply wonderful at work, unless there is some commercial value associated with just being wonderful. Artists get to make beautiful things for no other reason than that they want to. In America, making something beautiful doesn’t carry the same weight as making money. What’s beauty? You can’t buy anything with it! That’s why we are fascinated by the way artist Jeff Koons’ work is worth lots of money and don’t really care whether his artifacts are beautiful. (But his work is definitely better than Donald Trump’s, which is only about money!)

Beauty Is the Top
In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow explained his theory of human motivation with his famous hierarchy of needs. He put our most basic, physical needs at the bottom and our psychological needs at the top. Think of

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self actualization

beauty

self esteem fun love convenience safety survival

survival

Maslow’s Hierarchy

Tucker’s Hierarchy

cave men on the bottom level searching for food to eat, air to breathe and sex: simple survival level. They then move to the next level when they move into a cave, build a fire and find a stick to protect themselves; now, they can look around for love and respect. Then at last, when they have a warm cave, a club, a loving family and a nice tribe, they can climb to the top of the pyramid. From there, they have time to wonder about who they should be and how to transform their inner selves. Maslow’s idea is that having unfulfilled needs lower on the pyramid prevents a person from moving up to the next level. Maslow created his hierarchy a long time ago and couldn’t take into consideration the needs and desires of Americans today. So, I’ve made a new hierarchy for 2001. Imagine the suburbanite in his Dockers; he’s got a house, refrigerator and a car for survival. Now he needs to get comfortable with a Lay-Z-Boy recliner and a beer—he’s reached the second level: convenience. America is the land of comfort and convenience. We’re the masters of the entertainment delivery system—all in the pursuit of happiness! OXO GoodGrips make peeling potatoes fun! Are you having fun yet? If you answer “yes!” you’ve almost reached the top of the pyramid. Although it’s nice to have fun at work and everyone likes to escape into a Hollywood film experience, I can’t believe that “fun” is

the ultimate goal of life. Like Maslow says, people desire something that transcends their own selves. Beauty is that worthy goal, connecting to the biggest ideas and richest feelings. Although it is fleeting and ever expanding, beauty is satisfying.Making beauty is the ultimate experience. Seeing, feeling, contemplating, enjoying a beautiful composition, painting—these are peak Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi “flow” moments. Helping people reach this kind of Nirvana is what friends are for. Rowena was right: Beauty has got to be the goal of civilization. Design is the most valuable commodity, so it’s no wonder that the industrial design profession is being pushed to new heights. In “Sleeping Beauty,” the evil queen (obviously not a designer) had to ask, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Is beauty only skin deep? The way people and things look is important. What’s wrong with a beautiful surface? Quality is reflected in the visual image. You can judge a book by looking at the cover. The objects we make and how we enjoy them define culture. Whether it’s only on the surface or goes all the way through, the more beautiful it is, the better the culture and the more fulfilling our lives. In fact, civilization builds (both physically and intellectually) the environment and support for the creation and appreciation of beauty. Like gas and water, beautility is an essential civic utility that sustains our life form.

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