My Speak > Good Design

01Oct09

What is good design? This gmail inbox I’m writing in is. The keyboard I’m typing on isn’t. My body is. A waterfall is. An Indian mud pot with a tap attached to it is. None pretend to be what they are not. And work wholeheartedly towards being purposeful with intent to be of use.

Must all good design be of use? I would say yes. Or it isn’t design. It is art. Created to please, to extract emotions perhaps, and to make a point. A luxury. A pursuit for creative minds. Beautiful. Arresting. But not design in itself.

Canvas is good design. Is non porous, resistant to wear and tear and is strong and easily molded into anything. The art on it may or not be depending on what purpose it seeks to serve, what its intent is – the toothbrush vs. the Mona Lisa. I think the toothbrush is better design. But I think a stick of Neem is even better. It isn’t wasteful. Does the same job and more and is sensitive to its surroundings. Comb vs. hands. Hands are better. Multi-tasking and a sustainable resource.

If the world were to maximise what is already given by nature, our bodies included, than we would require very few new things to be designed all over again. Often when we design, we mimic, and dress it up, like fireworks on a starry night, only it’s a show, and has no real substance, and often no improvement over the master design.

The master design. Good design is a quest for the master design. The unshakeable mould. The way to get somewhere in the most efficient effective, sensitive, insightful way possible.

Good design is like a good proverb. It survives generations and is important because it is useful. No one praises proverbs for the reasons they do poetry. Proverbs are storehouses of information and experience; whether they please or do not please, they rarely fail to be effective. So too of good design.

If it’s all so simple, then why is so difficult to comprehend. Why do we confuse decoration for design? Perhaps because we are not geared to understand simple. Because we understand complex things like art far more easily than we do design. We look and say, ah pretty, it moved me, it made me cry. But ignore the most perfect designs like step wells and the thumb. Art is open to view points, and therefore more democratic, such that it allows everyone an interpretation. A tree has no interpretation. It just is. It exists in variations of the same design. In various types and forms. Roots. trunk. Leaves. fruits. Seeds. You cannot say you hate good design. Because its nature of being purposeful makes it immune to judgement. You could hate good art though. Like a salt and peppershaker. All have holes. Though the shapes and forms change. The perfect design was the holes. Everything else is dressing.

The best way to judge/measure/evaluate design is to put it to use, see what like it has been done before, and what new has been explored in this version, for it will or is usually a version, see how sensitive it is to the environment it is created for.

Design is negative space – for it is not an end in itself. It exists to fulfill a need. The moment you recognise the negative space, you start to see the real outlines of design. And then your eyes will never be muddled with mere decoration again.

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16 Responses to “My Speak > Good Design”

  1. I came across this article while looking up some info & loved the thought process in it, especially the fact that life always comes full circle.

  2. 2 Prashant Kumar

    It is written beatifully and powerfully. However, I feel that it lacks balance because it has given too much weigtage to utility. I feel that we can carry utility and other aspects like aesthetics, economics, culture, etc.

    Prashant Kumar

  3. 3 artymau

    I stumbled upon this website while doing a research about design and India, and i am so pleased that i did!! excellent write up. everything that is portrayed is so true, and so very well put. I loved your writing, especially the metaphors.

  4. Design is “DE SIGN”

  5. that was an insightful write up, to say the least, kavita. the conviction rang loud and clear. like good music. i could almost hear you saying it:)
    i chanced up on your site while surfing for interiors for my home, actually. very pleasantly surprised:)

  6. 6 ajit

    written like a design. Kya baat hai. Ustaad.

  7. 7 SK Gautam

    so great….
    at least for me….

  8. I enjoyed reading this post. Thanks. my favourite is the design of the paper clip, that Henry Petroski discusses in his book – Invention by Design : how Engineers get from thought to thing.

  9. 9 kye

    loved the write up 🙂
    i totally agree with everything you said

  10. Very well put!

  11. 11 Sakala

    Please check out Divya Thakurs’ designs. Her house , which is featured in Vogue shows her design sensibilites are different. Her love for Vintage and Art Deco, are combined well in her house.

    coming back to the article, if you see the Indian design sensibilities, they have evolved over the last 20 years, from ostentatious to more simple. But my favourite period would be ARt Deco and the Bahaus style.

  12. 12 A

    Clearly thats an inspired and a well written peice. But beyond that… by the very measure that you have established, most of the posts on your blog will need to be re-examined; and I will wager that you will not find good reason to keep many.And yet, when reason is requested to be presented , you make the case that you do. Yet intutively when you pick up design, oddly it negates your own stated reason; and yet you are being honest at both counts- so why the contradiction? I think good design is utiliatarian, functional, logical, etc. but then it quickly moves on and forward and beyond, and invests in other questions, important to the discipline it belongs to. The danger is that once it moves beyond, it can either become whimsical , or inquire some aspects intensely. I think it is that realm that is like quicksand and many designs collapse there; and yet thats the realm to be explored and understood. If you then examine your posts , again now, you may well find many more now that would have reason to exist- and some that may sink.

  13. 13 rganorkar

    i came across this post, and just a few days ago i was visiting MoMA in NY. they had an exhibition names “what is good design?” where they were trying to send the message that their old curator Edgar Hauffman had conceived when he first curated the ” Good Design” exhibit in 1954. interesting read…

  14. 14 Shyju

    Ah! for more such lucidity in writing! Loved it, Kavi

  15. 15 the green elephant

    so true!so apt!wonderfully portrayed!

  16. 16 Rajiv

    That was poetic, beautiful and absolutely on the money.



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