Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hold the line

OK. About the construction lines issue. Since ancient times, people have used construction lines and axis to generate proportions and relationships between formal elements. One of the most quoted examples is the Greek Parthenon, which is considered to be the most sophisticated example of the use of the Golden Section (here some other explicit graphic examples). However, not only those ancient cultures in Vitruvian times have used that kind of proportions. There are also modern examples, of course le Corbusier used the golden section for the UN building (for me, the general assembly auditorium looks like a war tank, but that's a semiotics interpretation and another story).

Anyway, during the 1900's, Clement Greenberg literally destroyed the old ways of structured creation, paving the way for a generation of "american idol" artists. Like I said, during thousands of years, creators have used basic composition rules and schemes that are adapted from time to time. Of course, it requires a certain knowledge and mastery of those rules... in a way, that's the grammatic of creation. However the new language rule for the 20th century was that there is no rule, anything goes! I must admit that this liberating anarchy brought some good ideas, but it gave people the false impression that anyone can make art, or design, or music just like that, without any regard for composition, melody, technique, etc.

I learned that comparing design or aesthetics with language may be a cute comparison, but it doesn't work at some levels. I'll use the analogy anyway: if design is a language, and you don't follow grammatical rules, it will only be a series of words with no connection, just like the titles of some random generated spam messages: "pageboy style steps" "conducts useful turning" "statler and emphysematous" "metaphorically hepatitis" ... for the unexperienced eye, they may look like regular titles, however, for experienced readers, the message makes no sense. The same happens with aesthetics, for unexperienced viewers, a piece of furniture or any object for that matter may look fine, for expert eyes, it may or may not have the right proportions or visual relationships between it's elements.

There's no universal design language, but there are universal rules that have to be followed to make the object understandable and pleasurable. Design software doesn't know about that... you have to use old fashioned grids to generate the geometry you need to place later the elements on that object. Some students during this summer course had a hard time understanding that they need to work with those basic rules, I guess they didn't expect some sort of Spanish Inquisition...

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