Design and Design Movements

We start our journey through Design Iterations thinking about what is design? Design is a method used to find solutions to problems. It is influenced by many external factors such as personal taste, cultural/political contexts, business activity and by enjoyment of craft itself. These different approaches to design result in the multitude of design ideas and design movements which have gotten us where we are today in terms of the objects we use and love, and the clothes we wear.

Design is the specification of an object within an environment. The object affords actions and interactions with it, based on influences with the external environment in which it exists. Affordance is both actual and perceived properties. The actual properties usually related to the intended or imagined use of an object through its design and the perceived properties being new, unthought of ways of using and interacting with a device which weren’t originally considered in its creation. Objects afford actions. Prime examples of this would be a button which affords pressing, or a door knob which affords turning. Affordances has various implications for design, human computer interactions  ergonomics, etc. It is widely believed that good design has explicit affordances; it is obvious how the object is interacted with.

Within all areas of design, user requirements play a big role with requirements gathering being an integral part of the process in order to define the problem to be solved. Design problems often requires negotiation with a client (who the object is being designed for). The problem here is that the client doesn’t always know exactly what they want and adopt an “i’ll know what i want when I see it” approach, making the design process far more difficult and lengthy. Requirements can be gathered through a numbers of ways such as observation. This method was used for collecting requirements for the Dorset independence poster, finding out information about the intended audience and how they interact with the space where the poster is going. Other methods include interviews with either the client or the intended audience/consumers of a device, or questionnaires to gather more specific/targeted information when collecting requirements.

I mentioned above how design can be influenced by cultural and political contexts, this is where the idea of a design movement stems from. A few examples of design movements include the Arts and Crafts movement (1880-1910), Art Nouveau (1980-1910), Bauhaus Modernism (1900-1939), Art Deco (1925-1939), Streamline Moderne (1935-1955), and Postmodernism (1975-present) which are a few that i’ve learned about in the past and are interested in. These movements often exemplify popular cultural and political ideologies of the time period in which they take place. Often movements, or elements from movements, are repeated time and time again throughout history. For example, the Arts and Crafts movement was an anti-industrialist movement which focused its design style on traditional craftsmanship and decorative arts. It often involved simple forms and emphasised the qualities of the materials used. A similar thing can be seen in modern technology as there is a great focus on aesthetics and quality of materials used in computing such as phones and laptops, going against the cheap plastic ones which were so popular just a few years ago. Contemporary design in my opinion is largely modernist and minimalist/reductionist. It often exhibits a simple, clean and uncluttered look with clean lines and artistic flair. There is usually a focus on quality of materials and then showing off those qualities in the way the material is finished.

Design movements come in handy when looking for inspiration for a piece of work, they usually outline a set of rules and guidelines which can be followed to make something visually similar. Design movements may prove useful in future projects as I decide upon how I want to layout and present information. One of my favourite design movements is Postmodernism due to the abstraction of ideas and images as a response to the perceived blandness of modernism. Robert Venturi, a renown postmodern architect famously said “less is bore” as a play on Modernist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe known phrase “less is more”. While I still love the minimalism associated with the modernist movement, in certain contexts the style does become very bland and boring, which where the eccentric style of postmodernism picks up the slack.

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