Reading Response #1
to Artful Design - Chapter 1: "Design Is ______"

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

Reading Response

From this week's reading, I'd like to respond to Artful Design Principle 1.7: Design is an articulation of preference. Pragmatics * Aesthetics.

When I think about a gadget, appliance, or device I want to buy, functionality is a given. If it doesn't satisfy whatever practical need I am looking for, then why would I buy it in the first place? However, after functionality, the reasons why I would pick one design over another are based on aesthetics. When I find myself browsing Amazon for stuff for my room or my apartment, I first think about the pragmatics; is this thing practical? Is it easy to use? Is it effective? But then I start considering their aesthetics. Is the design beautiful? Would it match with what I have in my room? Why does it stand out from other designs? After reflecting on this idea of pragmatics being mutually infused with aesthetics, I realize most of the time I am subconsciously thinking about a combination of both. What makes a particular design good is not only the pragmatics nor only the aesthetics. There has to be a combination of both. Even more so, there should be an overlap between the two. For instance, as mentioned in the book, a design can be satisfying because it is effective (pragmatics) and because it is pleasing (aesthetics).

While reading on principle 1.7, the notion of a design being about making choices beyond the design's purpose really appealed to me. It was interesting to me how I hadn't recognized what it is that makes a design aesthetic. Behind an attractive design, there are probably hundreds of choices that the designer made thinking about what they and/or the user would prefer not only in the pragmatic, but also in an aesthetic way. For me, that word (aesthetics) only ever had one meaning: looks. Now that I understand the deeper meaning of aesthetics, it makes so much sense. Design is an articulation of preference, a preference for not only what is functional or purposeful, but for what we think is meaningful, what has value, something that resonates with our personality.

Design Etude: Taking Notice

Thing #1: Water Bottle

This has been my water bottle for almost a year. It's pretty rough on the edges by now, and it is also my second of this kind, but I love it. Obviously, it serves a purpose, it holds water. But it also keeps my water cold for almost an entire day. The color pattern gives a sense that the water inside is cold and refreshing. I also appreciate that it has a handle connecting the bottle with the cap, so I don't have to worry about the cap falling down every time I take a sip. Holding water represents it means-to-an-end. Everything else I like about this water bottle and how much I enjoy using it, makes the bottle an end-in-itself.

Thing #2: Guitar

I have a Taylor GS Mini acoustic guitar. I really like how it sounds. I can leave it out of its case for days and it almost never gets out of tune. It has super light bronze strings so it is extremely smooth and easy to play. The bronze strings give it just the right amount of brightness. And the mahogany wood gives it a drier but still full and rich sound. I picked this guitar because it stood out to me when I first played it. I tried several guitars at the store but when I played this one, everything I played sounded better. Any good sounding in-tune guitar would have sufficed as the means-to-an-end. The end being: me having a guitar to play. But the way the sound of this guitar made me feel when I played it, made the guitar an end-in-itself.

Thing #3: Layout of living room

I moved into my apartment about two weeks ago. Initially the living room area seemed small and clustered. It was awkward navigating through it and it gave the impression that the furniture was just thrown in there wherever it could fit. Last week my roommate and I decided to change the layout of the room. We moved the furniture around a couple of times until we agreed on the final layout. Now the room seems much bigger, there is clear space to navigate through it, the lighting makes much more sense, but also it just feels more "homey." As a means-to-an-end, this layout serves the purpose of being more practical for us: easy to navigate, natural light by the table we work on, focused light to read books by the sofa. But the layout becomes an end-in-itself when it evokes and emotional response in us. It gives a warm cozy touch to the apartment and makes us feel like it's not an apartment, but a home.

Design Etude: Guerrilla Design

This week I rushed out of my apartment in a hurry and didn't have time to clean all my dishes so I wanted to text my roommate and let her know I would do them as soon as I got home. Instead of sending her a text, I decided to leave her a post-it note in the kitchen before I left. When I got home she had responded to the message, so we kept the post-it chat thing going on. It became rather inefficient after a couple of messages, so we stopped, but we definitely had some fun.

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