Aesthetics in design process – Part I

Good design is aesthetic — The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

Good design is thorough down to the last detail — Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.

– Dieter Rams

Designers — especially the young ones, during the designing process focus only on general, expressive product’s introduction. Their concepts feel like they would be lacking arrangement and the final touch. Many elements are applied in a random way — both when it comes to the form and to detail. This causes that the final finish usually takes place while developing the physical model or even on a later stage — just before the beginning of production. Then all the edits are made by a different person than the designer, more often — by a construction engineer. This results in having a product that may not correspond with the designer’s original ideas and could require a series of changes and compromises.

That’s why I decided to write a few words about it and hopefully broaden the consciousness among young designers.

Conscious designing.

It may seem that design contradictory to science — especially math, can not be defined by any specific, objective or measurable rules. Neither does it use a quantifiable process nor language. We often come across the opinion that design is intuitive and subjective, based on a non-verbal, unmeasurable, often subconscious level of perception and emotional states. And partially — it’s true. Therefore, among the apparent chaos and affordance, we can distinguish elements that fall within description and classification. This allows to facilitates the designing process, and make it more deliberate by locking it into certain parameters that are appropriate for human perception of reality.

The dynamics of curved lines.

Lines are the basic elements in every designer’s language. Not only straight or broken but mostly — the curved ones. Depending on their character and emotions we may categorize them into various groups. Let’s focus on the most characteristic three though.

Neutral — the basic “elementary particle” of design, the absolute minimum which identifies calmness, composure, and stability. It also comes with a certain type of chill and lack of emotions.

A neutral line does not have to be straight. It’s because the human eyesight (in terms of impressions) has a tendency to perceive straight lines depending on the way we look at them (especially the long ones) as convex or sunken. Wanting to remove this feeling, you may add to these apparently straight lines a hint of dynamics.

 

 

Dynamic — a line which has the so-called acceleration of curvature. It is characterized by friendliness, elegance, sophistication, and perfection with a certain hint of sexuality.

Aggressive — it’s a combination of the dynamic and the neutral line, however, in this case, we are dealing with a line that is acute and changes direction in a fast way. Such forms have an impact on our perception, they are aggressive and they epitomize precision, danger and most importantly — unrestrained energy.

Michal Pyteraf sketches

My sketches

Headset – courtnesy of VORM’s client

Headset – courtnesy of VORM’s client

 

Shaping the surface.

Depending on the product’s purpose, it’s predictable character and assumptions, the designer decides about the direction of shaping the object’s surface. The shape and its mutual correlation carry a wide range of invoked impressions and emotions. Keeping that in mind, the designer will adjust differently the surface of a medical object, a sport’s car or a computer mouse for gamers. Occasionally you may come across different sophisticated nomenclature for stylistic directions.It might make sense from a marketing point of view, but overall — the surface issue can be defined by the three groups mentioned above — neutral, dynamic and aggressive ones.

aggresive HI-TECH

Neutral surfaces: typical for products which are unobtrusive to our perception. They have the tendency to blend with the background and possess a certain design ‘invisibility’. Their existence is mostly carrying out functions and the surrounding shouldn’t disrupt it. During their shaping process, the emphasis is put on technology and production processes as well as the reproducibility of stylistic language.

Neutral surfaces 1

from left: Leica M3 (1954), Braun TP1 (Dieter Rams 1959), Sony TP1825 (1970s)

 

Neutral surfaces 2

From left: Phillips Multiva MRI, Samsung LABGEO, Samsung U-arm Digital X-ray GU60A

 

Neutral surfaces 3

From left: Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser, Land Rover Defender, Jeep Wrangler

 

Dynamic surfaces: most commonly observed, also in nature. They are characterized by fluent passages, organic character, harmony and lightness. Commonly used in areas where the streamlined forms are especially required such as transport. The dynamics and the character of these surfaces have more than one aim — which is to create an appropriate air resistance. Their mutual correlation, the directions changes influence the object’s proportions, their optic lightness, and heaviness. Their organic origin causes that they are perceived as more humanly — soft and friendly. They remind me of Greek sculptures in the way that they create a classic pattern in esthetics.

dynamic surfaces

From left: Mazda MX-5 (2005), Porsche 911 Targa, Mazda 6

 

dynamic surfaces 2

From left: Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Augusta A 109S Grand

 

From left: Phillips PT 720, Scott Aeromax, Nike Jordan Fly 89

 

Aggressive surfaces :  characterized by dynamics, sudden passages, sharp edges and multiple, repetitive breakings. Similar forms rarely occur in nature, therefore it only emphasizes their unusual character. This type of lines is perfect whenever you need to express precision, dynamics, aggression or when you want to achieve a style that influences the receiver’s perception, as observed in fast, sports cars, motorcycles, and electronics for gamers.

 

aggressive surfaces 1

From left: Monster Diesel Vectr, Astell&Kern AK380, Lenovo M300

From left: Giro Hex, B-9 NH Black Edition, Stealth B-52 E-Bike

From left: IBM LinuxONE Emperor, Furtif Evercut Knives, Plank Myto Chair

agressive surfaces 4

From left: Wally Power 118, Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, Lamborghini Reventon Roadster

aggressive surface 5

From left: Kawasaki Z1000, Vyrus 986 M2, Kawasaki Ninja H2R

 

Experienced designers know how to consciously use these set of forms. They can easily adjust it to the specific emotional requirements, brand archetypes, consumer personality traits, object functions etc.
It does not imply a rigid application of a chosen surface type. There is nothing unusual with blending particular conventions depending on esthetics, function or emphasis on a specific detail.
Such procedures and freedom of forms can manifest themselves not only in the general solid arrangement but also in texture and details. It may be dynamic stratifications or a mixture of various surface types in car bodies as well as exhibiting mechanical elements against a smooth, harmonious forms’ background or adding sensitive naps or perforations

urfaces mixing in shapes

urfaces mixing in shapes

Examples of surfaces mixing in shapes, details and textures

This article does not exhaust the depth of design issues but is only an intro which is an attempt to describe, measure and call a language used by designers. By understanding fully the empirical, three-dimensional form of created objects along with their intangible traits, emotional meaning and our unconscious choices we get closer to a dialogue among our emotions and mind. It helps us to focus fully on the designing process and create complementary and beautiful objects.