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

Aaron H.
10/02/2022
Music 256A / CS476a, Stanford University


Reading Response: Ends in Themselves

From this week's reading, I'd like to respond to Artful Design Principle 1.10, which states:
Principle 1.5: Design is Subtraction

—where less is more...,"simplicity is the ultimate sophisitication."

Trying to create an elegant solution or be minimalist in my works is something I currently grapple with. It is especially interesting when this ideology appears unexpectedly in disciplines such as math or various sciences. On pg. 42 in Artful Design, the Euler’s formula is a great example of a concise solution that is very useful. Another example is V=IR or Ohm’s law that is helpful when looking at circuits. In jazz, a common theme of "less is more" emerges consistently, especially during improvisation. Having too many notes or dense layers of sound can muddle what is trying to be expressed in music. One method of simplifying a work is establishing a milieu of musical ideas and subtracting out “nonessential” components as suggested on pg. 40 in Artful Design. However, how do you go about taking out parts? What does it mean to nonessential and how do you accomplish subtracting elements without compromising the original embodiment of a piece? Honestly, I don’t know the answers to these questions and depending on the day, I feel that this answer might change. On the other hand, this is something that keeps bringing me back and refining works, like the replay value of a video game.

Reflecting on the Ch 1. Design Etude, three things that I recognize as beautiful design are greetings, the black power afro pick, and watches. Greetings come in so many forms and really set the tone of an interaction. Professional vs casual, handshake vs full embrace, I’ve always wondered how the connotations towards these actions were established. For instance, why isn’t dapping someone up not considered as professional of a handshake? Is there really an intrinsic sense of how you should greet someone when you meet them for the first time? There is an art to figuring out these components and sometimes a physical aspect that can strongly set the precedence for first impressions. Greetings are a facilitator or means to communication and setting the vibe of an encounter. For the afro pick, the first thing that comes to mind is the black power fist that serves as the handle for the pick. It is an embodiment of the black power movement and resilience against discrimination as demonstrated by Olympic medalist Tommie Smith and John Carlos in 1968. The black power afro pick is a powerful yet simple design that acts as a reminder of black excellence. Lastly, watches both have high utility and are fashion statements. With current technology such as telephones and automatic clocks, watches may not be used as much anymore. However, there is something about the design and attention to detail that brings out the charm of a watch.

As for a guerrilla design, this week I was able to shape my hairstyle into resemblance of Kid ‘n Play. I typically just cut the side of my hair and shape everything up so that it’s even. However, I was feeling pretty spicy and decided to go all the way with high top fade. Although it’s quite different from my typical afro look, my towering fro reminds me of confidence and the ability to experiment with a part of myself. I’ve always loved all the different ways I’ve been able to style my hair, from braiding, waves, clean shave, to now the high top. For me, it adds further expression to who I am and something that can continuously change. We’ll see what the next haircut will bring!

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