Last night Bobby Solomon, founder of LA art blog TheFoxIsBlack.com, posted an article called, “Fuck Design, Let’s Set The World On Fire.” And, while I get where he’s coming from, I don’t think I agree with him. I disagree with his definitions of “art” and “design,” and, therefore, maybe, disagree with his reason for writing the article in the first place.
You can read the full article for yourself here, but I’ll walk you through a couple paragraphs to show you where I’m coming from:
The idea of design seems clinical these days. Pixel perfect design, perfectly executed corners, color-schemes that are pleasing to a majority of users. Should we be confining our lives and ideas into rigid modules, rules, guides and columns?
Is design clinical these days? Yes. I think it is. And I think it is for a reason. We live in a pretty messy world, and the design industry’s job is to help it make sense. Dieter Rams said, “Good design is as little design as possible,” and, I would guess, he said that because fewer options help make a potentially complex situation easier to understand. And helping people understand complex situations is the job of the designer.
When I think about the idea of design versus the idea of art, I have two completely different emotional reactions. When I think of art I think of expression. When I think of design, I think about perfection. Perhaps we need to stop worrying about perfection and worry about expressing ourselves fully through our work?
So now we’re not talking about “design” anymore. We’re talking about “art.” Art pushes boundaries, yes. And design is an “art,” yes. But, again, design’s goal is to help common people identify boundaries in the simplest way possible. Which is why, when Bobby says he thinks of expression when he thinks of art, and when he thinks of design he thinks of perfection, it makes sense. Because art is about expression, and design is about perfection.
Maybe we need to start making art again?
Bingo. It’s possible that I’m misunderstanding his article entirely, but I don’t think the answer is to stop looking for perfection in your design, if you’re a designer. I think the answer is to simply make more design/art for yourself. But he goes on:
Maybe we stop worrying about creating the one, perfect product that everyone in the world can love and do something that creates a truly emotional response in people?
Here’s what I think we need, my self very much being included in this idea. I think we need to fuck shit up. We need to make things that are uncomfortable to look at. We need to piss people off. We need to do things that seem fucked up and weird, that make no sense, that will be never be perfect and were never meant to be so. We need not explain ourselves or ask for forgiveness. We need to change this fucked up status quo of borrowing from the past and start thinking about our future. You and I both do it, we know we do.
The future has been a big topic of conversation lately. Whether it’s coming from The Founder’s Fund and Peter Thiel, or President Obama himself, the world is trying to fix its eyes, collectively, on whatever happens to be next. And making the future requires art, because art pushes boundaries and shifts paradigms. But that doesn’t mean that once those artists have created “fucked up shit” that we won’t need somebody like Dieter Rams to design it and package it so that the rest of the world can understand it. Because if art, no matter how revolutionary, is being ignored because of it’s complexity, then it’s not really “chang[ing] this fucked up status quo,” is it?
So, yes, I agree with Bobby when he says that we need to create more “art.” We do need people creating complex, hard-to-understand works that require viewers to go well below surface level thinking. But I disagree when he asserts that creating “art” means you have to do less “design.” The artistry of design is that, when it’s good, it helps make things easy to understand.
Pushing — and sometimes outright ignoring — boundaries is part of what makes you an artist. Trying to make sense of the world and achieve “perfection” in your designs makes you a designer.
We need more senseless art and more sensitive design at the same time, if we actually want to help push the world into the future.