Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Last weekend I cleaned my laptop, you know, with armorall vinyl cleanser. I didn't shoot off the computer, so at the end the volume and contrast were all wrong, and I noticed a folder with a name like "krgtwlngjaxz" So, without hesitation, I just put the folder on the trash bin, and pressed "empty". It was until I saw: "emptying 4,578 items" that I realised that it was "my documents" folder. So, I lost all last week's work in one click. The night before I was going to make my weekly back-up of those files, but I decided to take a break and post something on my blog. Anyway, I'm almost done re-writing patent applications, CAD drawings and the lot that got lost.

So, yesterday I decided to back-up on CD everything. Yes, I know, after the child has drowned... Anyway, while waiting for the CD's to get toasted, I started reading the book that Roberto and Yvonne gave me. I'm having mixed emotions on that, because the whole thesis is on semiotics, and that is my favourite subject. For example:

The form of each human artifact, including that of each product, has moral and cultural significance that reflects not only its creators but also its audience.

So far, so good, but I do not agree on the idea of regarding industrial designers as artists. Let's use the example of graphic designers: I guess we couldn't say that a supermarket flyer is a work of art, but it has to be designed and have the correct elements to communicate. In that regard, there are flyers which do not meet that criteria (bad design) and flyers which are well made, eventho we see them just as junk mail. Have a look at the Victoria Secret's Catalogue... or the Sears Roebuck catalogue... or IKEA. One can hardly say they are works of art, but they follow many complicated composition, arrangement, semantic, and ergonomic elements (yes, even ergonomics)... and still, we don't consider them art.

alphonse muchaThen, there are few examples when advertising becomes artistic. One of my favourites is Alphonse Mucha. By the way, we have a numbered original litograph. I wanted a Chagall, but my wife prefered Mucha... I was newelywed then... and now our livingroom is full of his drawings. Anyway, He did many, many advertising posters which are now considered classics and some even works of art. But that kind of graphic design for advertising is rare, and... now in modern times against figurative art, we are doomed.

Going back to Industrial Design. The point is, that perceptual encoding for communication might be similar to the encoding used in arts. Of course they are similar! Just like spoken language is similar to the grammatic rules used for poetry. But not all spoken communication is poetry, not all busta-rhymes are art... and definately, there are not so many pieces of industrial or graphic design which can actually be considered art (seriously).

I'll leave you with Don Norman's toughts: Art is not supposed to be about order and rationality and things that can be taught. Design must be rational. Design has to work, to be understood, to be functional. It is subject to many constraints about time, cost, and the vagaries of the marketplace. All of these are irrelevant to art — moreover, all of these should be irrelevant to art. Art makes statements. Designs work.


PS. I noticed this article when I searched the Art Renewal Center.
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