Commentary, Philosophies

Beauty as Necessity

I am not running for Congress, that much is clear. I’d like to begin with this statement because the following piece is going to seem like a pretty bald-faced “art in schools” speech. I’m not protecting the glee club, I’m not pushing for bigger arts budgets, and I’m not campaigning for mandatory music and art education.

Then again, maybe I am.

I’ll let you figure it out. Over the past several months my already kindling interest in graphic design, art, music, and photography has grown exponentially. I’ve found websites to stoke the flames, engaged in conversations with friends that cultivated my young ideals regarding the topic, I’ve even entered the creative “conversation” myself with my music and writing. The result has been difficult to ignore: either by accident or as a consequence, my demeanor has calmed, my relationships with others have grown more profound, and my appreciation of the little things in life has grown. In short, I’m discovering the fourth human necessity.

My interest began with a graphic designer and musician by the name of Scott Hansen. His blog, ISO50, featured unconventional art and photography, regular music posts, case studies of design in consumer products and publications, and a consistent and inspiring thread of fulfillment. Scott Hansen doesn’t just observe art, it is an extension of him.

For this young artist, his moniker, “Tycho” and the art that stems there-from, are as much a part of him as his right hand. The beauty he perceives in the world is as much a confirmation of his character as it is a satisfaction of his tastes. When he looks at a sunset, treated in a vintage filter and blurred to a dreamy state, this is how he views the world; that same calm that he experiences becomes him.

Art has a tendency to do this to people. Like Cameron in the Chicago History Museum, works of creativity have a way of staring into us, picking out a trait within us that we may be afraid to confront, proud to promote, or unaware of entirely. This knowledge of ourselves grows and makes us more confident, stretching into our engagements with others, manifesting as compassion, connection, and wisdom.

And when we see these displays in gaudy frames in an art museum, we begin to see their fingerprints everywhere. An especially beautiful picture of a sunset in Maui causes us to see our sunsets for their colors and meaning. A song about a subway station causes us to hear the sounds of the train tracks and ramblings of doomsday preachers in a different way. Our life becomes fuller, more meaningful, acting like a foley artist in a film, which brings to the forefront all of the things we would otherwise ignore.

I am more a believer now that I have ever been that the fourth human necessity, aside from water, food, and oxygen is beauty. The significance of our existence, our relationships, and our actions knows only chemical bonds and the passage of time without the inherent quality of beauty. Looked at subjectively, we are slaves to perception. Looked at objectively, we are little more than molecules. But looked at in conjunction, both through the lens of the human eye and within the rules of our physical world, ideas and transactions become meaningful, giving us purpose and peace.

Say what you will about Chinese math scores and the brain drain of the US economy. Without purpose, our calculations have no meaning. Beauty is as essential to our existence as the flesh of our bodies and, regardless of your artistic talent, you too are capable of both creating it and appreciating it in a way that will change the course of your life, right this very moment.

Architecture: where design meets humanity to the betterment of both.
Philosophies, Productivity

Design 4 Life

Sitting on my couch watching the visionary design documentary “Objectified” (seriously, check it out, and keep your damn mind open), I was struck by how many things in our world are touched by design. Everything from the cardboard flap on a Cheese Nips box to the volume knob on our computer speakers have been considered carefully and manufactured with the intent of meeting our needs and/or satisfying our wants. 

My mind then considered, is there any way that we can apply design in our daily living? Of course we can, otherwise this would be a pretty short article. The concept is simple: take the principles of design and apply them to our daily actions and choices.

For example, a prominent concept in design is negative space. This almost paradoxical concept, that empty space deserves as much weight as space filled by text, is highly valued by designers and, unbeknownst to us, our brains. You see, when we see a clean, white desk, we begin to think immediately of what we could accomplish on that desk. When we see an empty calendar, we begin to consider what we could do on those unfilled days. The same goes for silence; when no one is talking, we consider what we might say.

This idea, that leaving space open can be beneficial, is a powerful one. In calm moments, TV off, no other noise, we begin to hear what we feel and what we desire. When we leave our days open, the world is full of possibility. People and things will want you to fill up that space, but don’t listen to them! Turn off the TV, let the sunshine in, and give yourself an afternoon here and there to figure out what you really want.

Another example of designing our lives: typography. When you see the American Apparel logo in glorious Helvetica (it is the greatest font of all time and I will equalize anyone who disagrees), we immediately think clean, fashionable, simple and elegance. When we see Coca-Cola’s classic script on a can, we think of tradition, fun times, bubbly sweetness, and happiness. The way in which words are expressed makes as great a difference as what we are expressing.

Apply this in your own life. The next time you go to say something in an email, a conversation, or whatever-medium-in-particular, think about what you are saying and who you want to say it to. Think about how your words could most benefit them and communicate your message. Consider your tone. All of these are the equivalent of utilizing typography to get your message across.

The list goes on, but what’s the fun in design without discovery? Think about how the graphic or physical elements of the products or brands you love affect you and consider, how can I design my life? Chances are pretty high that you’ll benefit, and those you interact with will benefit without others even realizing the cleverness of the choices you made.

Pretty cool huh?