Reading Response #1 (Sample)
to Artful Design • Chapter 1: “Design Is ______”

Ryan A. | 2019.9.30
Music 256A / CS476a, Stanford University Fall 2019

Reading Response: Ends in Themselves

From this week's reading, I'd like to respond to Artful Design Principle 1.5, which states:
    Principle 1.5: Design is Means vs. Ends

—where means are “means to ends” (something that serves another purpose) and ends are “ends in themselves” (something worthwhile in itself).

The idea that some things are ends-in-themselves is pretty fascinating to me. Previously, I have normally just looked at designed things based on the needs that they fulfill, without much thought on why they themselves are fulfilling. I find it really cool that certain elements, such as the fact that the pencil case is composed of a single zipper, are so satisfying, even though they fulfill no purpose what-so-ever. Realizing this aspect of design, I started thinking about the apps that I use, the music I listen to, etc., and wondering why it is that I use/listen to them, opposed to the plethora of other options. And, most of the time, the main reason I do is not from a functional standpoint, but rather because I find them satisfying in themselves. I think this is especially the case in music. While music can be a means-to-an-end, such as providing a deeper message or telling a story, I find that most of the songs that I listen to are ends-in-themselves. I don’t play a certain song because it fulfills some specific need, rather I listen to it because the song itself is fulfilling.

In addition to this, I find the idea from lecture (and a principle from Chapter 8) that technology is not bad, good, or even neutral very surprising, but it does kind of make sense. For instance, I feel that a good amount of the negative feelings toward technology have resulted from the ways in which designers have used technology in unethical ways. And I also feel that if we can find ways to use technology that searches for the sublime, there will be a change in people’s attitude toward technology.

Design Etude: Taking Notice
(Ge: these are great; I would like to have seen a more clearly articulated Means vs. Ends analysis)

Thing #1: Coffee Mug

I have only one coffee mug in my dorm. Of course, the main function of the mug is to hold the coffee that I drink every morning, but I believe that it is more than just that. The mug’s modest appearance, having brown and beige coloring and a simple design, give off a very calming vibe. And the fact that it is my sole coffee mug only adds to that minimalistic feeling. Because of this, while the mug has a very functional purpose, it has become somewhat an end-in-itself for me, setting the tone for my place.

Thing #2: Laptop

Although I use my laptop almost every day, I am constantly amazed with its sleek design. Its matte gray and black color combination give it a very clean and straightforward look. For me, this makes the laptop very easy to open up and start working on, with most of its software having a similar aesthetic. Therefore, my laptop not only has a functional purpose, but it also actively promotes this functional purpose.

Thing #3: Voicemail from my Grandma

The other day, I received a voicemail from my 91-year-old grandma about nothing in particular. There was no urgent message that I needed to hear, nor was there something that she was asking me about. She simply just called to say hi. And honestly, I can’t say that I really remember what the voicemail said, but just hearing her voice cheered me up and made my day a little bit better. The voicemail was very much an end-in-itself, beautiful because of the feeling and meaning behind it.

Design Etude: Guerrilla Design

Last week, I spent some time in Las Vegas, where my sister lives. It was my first time over there, and I was astounded not only by The Strip, filled with casinos and music venues, but also by the incredible mountain ranges that lie so close to it. I wanted to text my sister and ask her for some of the pictures from the hikes and the strip, so I decided to do through the form of a haiku. This is what I sent:

From the Vegas week,
When mountains met casinos,
I need some photos

ChucK Program
Here it is:

Bonus (from Ge): People Reacting to a Tik Tok Challenge

People react to a Tik Tok challenge and offer some reflections...