It wasn’t until 1890, around the time of the Women’t rights movement, that women were encouraged to “exercise their power as rational consumers”. Women’s role in the world was beginning to change around this time, and women were given more say in society. The wallpaper industry decided to capitalize on this change and began to encourage women to embrace interior design and home making. I found the section in the Women and Wallpaper article that said “While, many reformers of the period suggested applying restraint, holding emotions in check and curbing desire in order to constitute a virtuous life. At the same time, the seduction of wallpaper was also described as dangerous and something to be wary of. For example, Ladies World magazine warned women about the seduction of traveling wallpaper salesmen and counseled shoppers to have a friend “to stand by you and counteract the persuasions of the salesman…if you have no knowledge of color or design, or the harmony of things, and you find yourself unhesitatingly in the hands of the wallpaper salesman, and he is clever and you are not worried about money limitations, the way is easy” incredibly amusing. I find it really funny that magazines told women to be wary of traveling salesmen and to have a friend to talk them down from buying anything outrageous or hideous just because it cost a lot or because they were schmoozed by the salesman.
I never really think about wallpaper. Most people don’t have wallpaper in their houses any more, most people have paint now. So the fact that it was such a controversial topic is really funny to me. The part about May Morris being seen as too young and inexperienced to create the work she created is frustrating to me as a twenty-two year old woman because there are plenty of women my age and much younger who are more accomplished artists than some fifty year old men who claim to be artists. I am glad that she was able to overcome this setback and that at age twenty-three she became a director of the embroidery department at Morris & Co., her father’s company.
“Good design means as little design as possible” states Dieter Rams in his essay Omit the Unimportant. Design is not meant to hinder or interrupt the function of products. This is why minimal design is key, once you start to go beyond what is necessary it becomes overbearing, redundant, and an inconvenience. “Every manufactured item sends out signals to the mind or emotions. These signals — strong or weak, wanted or unwanted, clear of hidden — create its use. Of course a product’s effect is also important.” It is the designers role to design the product to capture and magnify the signals the product already emits. He goes on to explain that: “Design is the effort to make products in such a way that they are useful to people. It is more rational than irrational, optimistic and projected towards the future rather than resigner, cynical, and indifferent. Design means being steadfast and progressive rather than escaping and giving up. In a historical phase in which the outer world has become less natural and increasingly artificial and commercial, the value of design increases. The work of designers can contribute more concretely and effectively towards a more humane existence in the future.” Designers today are in a very unique position to decide which direction the society heads in. Do we become more focused on commercial machine based products or do we focus back on a more man made and humane existence? Instead of trying to one each other and out do each other as designers we have an incredible opportunity to band together and form a community able to do incredible things.
I often find myself as a designer comparing my work to that of my peers, instead of seeking their opinions and thoughts I get overwhelmed by their talent and I shy away from them. I need to learn to not do this because if I am to grow as a designer it is going to take refinement and critique. I also need to work on simplifying my design to allow the message to speak through clearly. I often find myself getting caught up in making my design’s aesthetic rather than the message I’m trying to convey.
Design is literally everywhere from our clothes, to our homes, down to the packaging our food comes in. All of these things involve mass amounts of design. In Design As Art, Bruno Munari explains what the artist and designer’s roles are in society today by saying: “the designer of today re-establishes the long-lost contact between art and the public, between living people and art as a living thing…There should be no such thing as art divorced from life, with beautiful things to look at and ugly things to use.” The designers role is to bring beauty and aesthetic integrity to mundane, everyday life. We surround ourselves with so much technology, products, and visual imagery that fights for our attention that for merchants to sell their products they must make them aesthetically pleasing. Munari goes on to say that: “ when the objects we use every day and the surroundings we live in have become in themselves a work of art, then we shall be able to say that we have achieved a balanced life.” Art and design have once again become a trade. Artists and designers are asked by society to create certain works, products, and visual communications. Art and design are priorities in every aspect of life, which is why the lack of emphasis on art in education is baffling to me.
Education today has become so focused on testing and grades that creativity is pushed aside and sometimes snuffed out. There are so many students who struggle in school because their minds do not work the way the education system demands they do. When students with active and creative minds are forced to conform to the standardize, rigid, stale way of thinking their talents and abilities are wasted and they are seen as “bad students” and it is often written off as ADD or other forms of attention and behavior. Society has a very negative view of artists as being the ones who didn’t do well in school so they took up art, when this is a very false representation of artists. Every product we use on a daily basis was designed by an artist/designer. So why is there still such a stigma against artists and why does the education system still put so little effort into creative studies?
Since the industrial revolution that started around 1760 technology has not stopped rapidly developing. We have come to rely on technology so much so that there are very few basic functions that we do that do not involve some form of technology. There are many positive affects of our reliance on technology like the fact that we have the answer to pretty much any question we can think of at the touch of a button; it is much easier to stay connected with people around the world and people are much more accessible than they use to be; and we are able to share ideas and thoughts with the whole world. However, there are also negatives, like the fact that we are sucked into extreme consumerism; we are loosing the art of face to face communication; and because things are so easy to look up and find we often take the easy road instead of thinking for ourselves.
It can sometimes feel like we as designer rely on the technology to do our work for us and we don’t step back and create for ourselves. This overly technology saturated world has made the art and design fields develop and expand rapidly, but it has also made it harder for artists and designers to be creative and think for themselves. I often find myself getting caught up in looking at the work of other artists in my field, and it then becomes extremely hard to create unique and original art. I also find myself getting caught up in using my technology as a means of creating the art rather than using it just as a tool in the process of creating art, I rely on the abilities of the technology rather than my own abilities. I think we have lost touch with our own personal talent and abilities and we rely on the computers and other technology to simplify work that we should be using our hands to create.
While these stumbling blocks are created by technology Frank Lloyd Wright sums up the potential technology has in the fields of art and design, in his article “The Art and Craft of the Machine” when he says: “The great ethics of the Machine are as yet, in the main, beyond the ken of the artist or student of sociology; but the artist mind may now approach the nature of this thing from experience, which has become the commonplace of his field, to suggest, in time, I hope, to prove, that the machine is capable of carrying to fruition high ideals in art – higher than the world has yet seen!”
We as humans are extremely visual. This truth means that aesthetic plays a major role in our every day lives. Physical beauty is elevated to ridiculous levels of importance in our society and unfortunately design does not go untouched from this. In “The World as Design” Otl Aicher, said: “It used to be said that knowledge is power. In very early times they my have said: ability is power. Today we say: beauty is power. Only someone who can offer beauty has a chance of dominating the market. Only someone who has slipped into an aesthetic existence has leadership qualities.” This does not only apply to people, this is evident in design. If we look at the popular styles of design today they have a great deal of aesthetic and most of the time there is a severe lack of logic put into design. Design is primarily meant to solve problems, the aesthetics of design are only meant to enhance the usage of products. They are not meant to get in the way of the product.
In order to make the most effective and practical designs we must not only look at what makes the work aesthetically pleasing but we must also balance the meaningful, logical and practical aspects of it also. Design must solve the given problem while also being effectively designed. I often find myself in my design classes wanting to make my work fit a certain aesthetic rather than using the design to solve the given problem. I realize that I need to structure my design process in the linear model as laid out by Richard Buchanan in “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking,” Design Issues 8, no. 2. Buchanan says: “Although there are many variations of the linear model, its proponents hold that the design process is divided into two distinct phases: problem definition and problem solution.Problem definition is an analytic sequence in which the designer determines all of the elements of the problem and specifies all of the requirements that a successful design solution must have. Problem solution is a synthetic sequence in which the various requirements are combined and balanced against each other, yielding a final plan to be carried into production.” I realize that this model of design will be the most effective way for me to ensure that my designs are aesthetically pleasing, meaningful, logical, and practical.
This semester in my studio time I have battled the concept of pretty versus beautiful. The idea that a piece of work can be pretty and pleasing to the eye but I have discovered this semester that beauty is created from contrast. I have found, in my own personal work, that the transformation from “pretty” into beautifully captivating works of art, takes place when contrast is introduced. I struggled this semester with how to introduce contrast into my pieces, I discovered that the best way to contrast prettiness is with ugliness. However, ugliness is a powerful thing and as designers we should have solid intentions when applying ugliness to our designs. I have been wrestling for weeks with how to make my work more captivating yet still keeping the bright colours and softness of the photos.
This weeks articles couldn’t have come at a better time; two of the articles in particular really spoke to me, they were: Steven Heller’s article, Cult of the ugly (1993) and Jan Tschichold’s article The new Typography (1928). In his 1993 article, titled Cult of the ugly, Steven Heller explains that: “Ugliness as a tool, a weapon, even as a code is not a problem when it is a result of form following function. But ugliness as its own virtue – or as a knee-jerk reaction to the status quo – diminishes all design.” He also says: “Ugliness is valid, even refreshing, when it is key to an indigenous language representing alternative ideas and cultures.” I think it is imperative for us as designers to be versatile in our design styles and abilities, however at the same time we must know how and when to use each style, this includes “Ugly design”. Earlier in his article, Heller explains what he means by “ugly design” as “the layering of inharmonious graphic forms in a way that results in confusing messages.” Any style of design can be used well, so long as it is use in the correct context and form.
Design is used to convey messages though visual graphics and typography. No matter how harsh something may be to look at if it is done intentionally with the appropriate style of design and it is done to enhance the intended message, than I think any form of design can be effective. Even the most visually pleasing pieces can be badly designed.
When we put the importance of the design aesthetic above the importance of the intended message it becomes poor design. Old typography was a prime example of this, while old typography treatment was ornate and pretty it often distracted from the intended message and became confusing and/or illogical. New typography’s primary focus is clarity. Jan Tschichold explains in her article The new Typography that “The gentle swing of the pendulum between ornamental type, the (superficially understood) ‘beautiful’ appearance, and ‘adornment’ by extraneous additions (ornaments) can never produce the pure form we demand today.” Our world is so saturated with pretty things that if we want to capture the viewer’s attention about a specific message we have to eliminate any and all distractions and focus on how we can use the design to magnify the message.
I found the article “Women and Wallpaper” very interesting. It used wallpaper to discuss issues of domesticity and women’s rights. Wallpaper is something I have never thought much about, especially that it reflected so much meaning about the 1900s. Wallpaper and home deco has always been thought of as feminine, however it did give women a sort of freedom to make decisions and express themselves, instead of the man making all the decisions. “The spirit of the interior of the house is as vital as the spirit of the person. It must be a simple, sterling expression of the life within; otherwise it is a mere chaos of wood and textile.” Not only that, but I never thought about the labor that went into putting up the wallpaper. “Women were encourages by the wallpaper industry to express their independence by not only choosing and buying wallpaper, but also hanging their own papers.” Women laboring to put up their own wallpaper begins breaking some of the stereotype, which were even more prominent during that time. Jane Addams and other women part of the feminist movement such as Judy Chicago challenged these stereotypes to inspire change. Who knew such a simple item like wallpaper could be so impactful.
From business, which was most likely run by men, they were promoting these views in order to sell and earn a profit. In a way they probably assumed women could not make rational decision, or could be easily manipulated, as the article mentions about the seductive salesmen. However, man boosting wallpaper seems a little ironic to me considering how that message of independence went against traditional household roles. Women were supposed to submit their husbands, while the husbands made the decisions. Choosing wallpaper is no big decision, however it gave women a sense of empowerment.
During the 1890s, advertisers began marketing towards women for home decorating purposes. The role of women was changing and with it came a change in the way that the home was thought of. Wallpaper became a booming industry with women choosing the look of their room as a means of independence and personal expression. In the article on “Women and Wallpaper”, I was really amused by the description of wallpaper as being seductive and dangerous. Women were warned that wallpaper salesmen would seduce them into making purchases and feeling a need for the product when they did not need it. It is interesting that such a warning was issued when the lure of product and consumer culture is so rampant today. Any warnings against purchasing are definitely not in the forefront and it is rarely spoken about. Churches often speak of giving and generosity but the message of being taken captive or seduced by material goods is not as obvious. It is so interesting to me that something as simple as wall paper, an item that is seldom used today, played such an important part in developing and changing the role of the woman in society.
In Sheila Levrant de Bretteville’s article on “Some Aspects of Design from the Perspective of a Woman Designer”, she comments on the gender stereotypes that were often portrayed back in the 1970s and still are today. The idea that women are depicted as being soft, tender, doubting, emotional support for others, etc. and that men are confident, professional, assured, etc. would be displayed throughout advertisements and imagery everywhere. In essence, this imagery was telling viewers what things should be like or what to believe about people rather than making suggestions about what things might be like and allowing the viewer to come to conclusions. Bretteville writes about the idea that social expectations could and should be broadened for both males and females so that the full range of each person’s personality could be opened up and people would not be confined to specific social expectations simply based on their gender. She goes on to argue that visual ambiguity can be more effective in allowing people to flourish. It would allow to for subjective opinions and for there to be more than one take on any given topic. I agree that visual ambiguity should be used, but I do struggle with the disintegration of gender roles that has been happening and continues to happen in our culture. I believe that there are things that women are innately that men are not and vice versa. There are things that appeal to most women more than they would appeal to most men. I agree that not everyone fits that mold but overall I think that there needs to be more clarity rather than less on what it means to be a woman vs. a man. It seems like the ideas that Bretteville was arguing have come to be in a sense but I do not think that they have benefited us the way that she may have thought. There seems to be a loss of identity culturally in what womanhood and manhood means and so many people are confused about what their role is and why it is important. I tend to think that if we continued to encourage men to be confident conquerors and women mothered and fostered warm homes that there would be more balance and less confusion in so many in our culture.
In Herbert Bayer’s excerpt on Universal Type he makes some really interesting statements about the cultural effects on typography and communication. As time moves on and cultural transitions, with it the styles and use of type has transitioned. Just as new words and ideas are developed, so typography had been shaped and molded into the simplified form of sans serif font. However, Bayer believed that there needed to be a further development of a new alphabet that would be simple in appearance and easy on comprehension. It would be a basic form but would be able to serve almost any purpose. It would have no capital letters to save trouble and cost. Basically, capital letters were an old thing that Bayer found to not be as legible as small case and so he wanted to do away with them all together. Bayer wanted to strip away even more than had been with the sans serif type face and wanted to do away with unnecessary capital letters and focus on efficiency and quick legibility. I can see how the influence of Nazi Germany that Bayer was living in effected his thoughts on the matter of typography. He wanted to create a universal, one way font that could be used for anything. He wanted, in essence, to wipe away all other type faces and replace them with one. The sad part is that all the diversity in communication would have been lost just as if Nazi Germany had succeeded in their mission.
Rhetoric is something that effects not only every designer, but every communicator. It has been used throughout all ages and all cultural traditions. The ability to persuade others through the use of speech, written word, imagery, or other avenues was vital to almost every movement throughout history. Gui Bonsiepe writes about this in his article Visual/Verbal Rhetoric. He commments on the need for rhetoric with politics, justice, and religion and how advertising has become a primary use of rhetoric along with those three. Through graphic arts, typography, visual design, and spoken word companies work tirelessly to influence consumers to purchase their product. The art of pursuasion bleeds in and causes pure messages to change into attractive messages that will draw people in a certain direction. In essence, the use of rhetoric is mostly unavoidable in communication through type or imagery.