The Design of Everyday Things

Andreas Kremer

Book Review

Design not only beautifies the world around us, it’s also able to simplify our interactions with objects through visual communication. The beauty of this aspect of design is its ability to evoke an intended response, which creates this form of visual communication.  The job of a designer is to portray an idea or function to an intended audience that clearly convey’s, through careful consideration of the elements at play, their idea or purpose.  However, their is no concrete standard or formula for design, therefore it is all up to the mind and eye of the designer, but often times beautification take’s over the functionality aspect, creating confusion and a disconnect between the design and the purpose.  This brings us to the idea of understanding all the aspects of design, as design takes the form of a noun and a verb, here we’re thinking in terms of both, as in how to design a design.  The novel The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman takes a whole new look on the world around us, and how it is and can be viewed.  Through countless interactions with the objects we interact with day after day we start to take for granted the little aspects of their design that enhance, or often as we will see, degrade their functionality.  By breaking down the simplest devices into their basic functions and features, then rebuilding them in a way that is both obvious yet entirely new Norman shows the good and bad of design elements in everyday objects.

A functional design must clearly convey the essence of the device’s operation to the user.  When you walk up to a door, how do you know how to deal with it? This is something I and most people would never consciously think about when using it. Norman point’s out subtle cues everyone uses, such as where the handles & hinges are located, as well as the normal conventions, such as pushing to go out of a commercial door.  Two key concepts Norman points out that designers must consider in order to create this positive relation between the user and product are mapping and feedback.  Mapping is concerned with the relationship between two things, like a door and the user.  Feedback refers the information that is sent to the user about what action has actually been done.  These concepts seem simple yet it can be difficult to find a way to apply them in a way that can be universally understood.

Through breaking down the concepts of design Norman creates a very simple method of depicting these problem to people who aren’t even designers. As you start to understand what visual clues subconsciously guide us through our days you begin to better understand some of the major  issues presented.  One example Norman used was about getting briefly stick in the foyer of a commercial building because of the ‘modern’ design of the doors. “The hinges were hidden, it was almost entirely glass, and the handles stretched across the entire center of the door giving no clue as to which way they should be opened. Along with one set of doors opening in the opposite direction from the others.” This creates for a very elegant layout to a building entrance yet, this hinders the main function and usability of the door making this simple task of walking into a building become an irritating puzzle.  Now this might not seem like a huge deal but, it is.

Norman pulls out some truly horrific numbers to make a great point on how important intuitive design is. “The average person has around 30,000 different instruction sets to remember on a regular basis. If each one of these took just a minute to remember, you’d be spending several months learning them.”  The fact that we’ve absorbed this great deal of these instructions and conventions over decades makes it particularly irritating when things are redesigned in a way that isn’t innate to us. The fact that we will be facing an increasing number of these situations on a daily basis even further secludes the importance of design. Norman show’s through a thorough examination of human behavior how we can determine the cues needed to effortlessly guide us through our lives in away that is intuitive.

This book constantly suggest the importance of design and what a major role it plays in our lives. As a designer, this has been inspiring to read. This book has shown me a whole new side to the importance of designers that I didn’t truly understand. Through seeing this I am more confident in the power designers hold in society. Norman has done an excellent job critiquing various objects. He doesn’t stop there, he also points out good designs and possible solutions to improve upon not so good ones. The fact that he is not entirely one sided shows he has put research and time into understanding all the aspects so you truly understand the effect design has on the world.

Art Nouveau

Extra Credit Assignment

An essential movement that helped evolve art, design, and the mindset of artists was Art Nouveau. This  international style of art, architecture and applied art, was especially fixated towards the decorative arts. It was considered a total art style as it embraced all forms of creation taking form in architecture, graphic art, interior design, and almost all of the decorative art including jewelry, furniture, textiles, household utensils, lighting, as well as the fine arts. These artists had a desire to combine the fine arts and applied arts, even for utilitarian objects. It was very popular between 1890 and 1901, as it cultivated as a reaction to the academic arts of the 19th century. It was highly inspired by natural forms and structures, particularly the curved lines of plants and flowers. The aim was to modernize design, they attempted to abolish the eclectic historical styles that had previously been popular with their more naturalistic take on art. This movement was also committed to abolishing the traditional hierarchy of the arts, which viewed so-called liberal arts, such as painting and sculpture, as superior to craft-based decorative arts. According to the philosophy of the style, art should be a way of life.

These artists were visionaries who were highly self inspired and a bit rebellious. This movement is very empowering to look back on as an artist. It promotes the idea of self discovery through art and pursuing where passion takes you. They went against the norm to create a very beautiful style. It offers a unique approach to elegance that is often strayed away from in lots of modern design. The beauty of how their pieces flow together through imagery and typography really captures the elegance of nature. It also depicts the circle of life in a way and well how nature works together in order to become this thing we know as life. The impact of nature is clearly depicted through Art Nouveau. However, this beauty gets lost in the modern day design through the great deal of industrialization that has taken over. The bold and clean look to modern designs offer their own sense of beauty but its not the same as magnificence of Art Nouveau. Their philosophy was that art should be a way of life, which is why forms of life, like plants and flowers dominated their art style. The artists of this time truly embraced life and all the beauty it has to offer.

This style has a to offer to current designers. Often times we tend to follow guide lines were are taught and have trouble straying away from them. We are taught how design should looked tend to assume that others have figured out the way of design. However, through experimentation, testing the limits, and breaking rules we will never truly grow or expand. Art needs to be treated as a way of life, not a way of conforming. Life is ever changing and growing which is why art needs to follow after. Life has an unlimited supply of inspiration and it is important for artists to take full advantage of this.

Steal your Face

Andreas Kremer

Steal your Face

I chose to use an iconic logo of the band, The Grateful Dead.  Their logo Steal your Face is widely know, recognized and seen as a major symbol for the hippie movement, jam music, and the psychedelic period.  It can been seen any where on any of their band merchandise, cd’s, stickers, and on the bumpers of cars all over the world.  The original use was a way for the band to identify their musical equipment.  however, the logo later appeared on the cover of the album Steal your Face, and has been known as the Steal your face symbol ever since.

This design is fairly simplistic contains only 4 colors, red, blue, white, and black.  Yet the contrast between these is very bold and eye catching.  The image is entirely based off of a circle, created by a thin black outline.  Inside it contains a smaller circle that suspended near the top of the larger circle.  The smaller one however, is created by two black lines with white space in between, as opposed to the singular black line around the larger circle.  Between the space of the bottom of the smaller and bottom of the larger circle the outer black line from the smaller one continues in a very curvature nature to the bottom of the image.  In the extended area that this line creates is more white space that contains black lines, curves, and various shapes.  The space inside the larger circle to the left of the smaller shape is filled with a blue while the space to the right is filled with a red.  In the middle of the smaller circle lies black zig-zag line that stretch across the entire circle, leaving space on either side.  This space is also filled with red and but it is flipped to contrast with the larger circle.  The left is red while the right is blue.

Since this image is so iconic and has been around since it was first designed in 1969 I think it is very effective.  The lightning bolt is a symbol for transformation, enlightenment, and raw powers of nature, juxtaposed with a skull, and distinct colors that all lend to the symbols’s “steal your face” concept.  Through the Grateful Dead’s scene the music inspired, many people were transformed.  In a sense their everyday masks were cracked by the openness of their culture.  The lightning bolt is a perfect symbol to convey this idea, and the skull also provides a great way to symbolize the “Grateful Dead”.steal-your-face8.jpg

Andre Breton

Andre breton was a French writer, poet, anarchist and anti-fascist. He is best known as one of the founder’s of Surrealism. He started his career of studying medicine and psychiatry. Then, during World War I he worked in a neurological ward in Nantes, where he met Jacques Vaché, whose anti-social attitude and disgust for established artistic tradition considerably influenced Breton and his future works. André Breton was one of the original member’s of the Dada group who later went on to start and lead the Surrealist movement in 1924.

That same year he published the Surrealist Manifesto, which he used to defined the “nature” of Surrealism and the mode of expressing its view of reality. He defines surrealism as “Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express — verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner — the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.” Breton’s connections to the dadaist moment are shown in his claims that surrealism has no aesthetic concentration.  The core focus of the dada movement was the rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-art cultural works that concentrated on anti-war politics. He also used a great deal of absurdist humor, further demonstrating the influence of the Dada movement which preceded it. The Manifesto also confirmed the existence of this brand new art movement and revealed its members. Breton also discusses his initial encounter with the surreal in a famous description of a hypnagogic state he experienced in which a strange phrase inexplicably appeared in his mind: “There is a man cut in two by the window”. This phrase echoes Breton’s understanding of Surrealism as the juxtaposition of “two distant realities” united to create a new one. The text concludes by asserting that Surrealist activity follows no set plan or conventional pattern, and that Surrealists are ultimately nonconformists.

An early example of a Surrealist collage that fuses text and image was his Poeme. Breton wrote this poem the same year he published the Surrealist Manifesto. This poem has much more to offer than just a poetic expression, it reveals Breton’s increasing belief in journalism as a potent artistic form as the piece uses newspaper and magazine clipping materials as its source. The text is absurdist and constructs its own logic that would not make sense to a reader trying to understand it as traditional language, also influenced by Dada. This piece solidifies the idea of integrating text as an art form. With all the variations in fonts, size, and style he is able create a visual pattern through text, expanding it’s soul purpose, from primarily just readability, to a whole new form of visual communication.

Breton was a huge part of the Surrealist movement and his works had a lot of influence on future artists to come. He innovated ways in which text and image could be united through chance association to create new, poetic word-image combinations. His ideas about accessing the unconscious and using symbols for self-expression served as a fundamental conceptual building block for New York artists throughout the 1940s.Andre-Breton_POEME_c1924.jpg2e7bdd067b80546e3fb03ac1fdd8b33d.jpg