Reading Response #1

From Chapter 1 of Artful Design, I would like to respond to Principle 1.10, which states: DESIGN IS SUBTRACTION. It is common to think design as addition (Principle 1.9) since design is exploring things that have not shown up before. Yet, it is almost impossible for every single component of it to be brand new. Most of the time, design is just modifying and simplifying existing things and processes. Along the course of optimization, the resulting design becomes easier to use and prettier to perceive, a boost in both function and form aspects. Accordingly, the goal stated in Principle 1.16, "BOTH USEFUL AND BEAUTIFUL," is achieved.

For me, the most intuitive example of this idea would be its flourish in the computer science field. The invention of all these fascinating programming language features seems to originate from this principle. At ground level, for loop is one of the most fundamental syntaxes that every programmer must learn in the very early stage. The same functionality could certainly be implemented without the for loop, but in that case, the code could be way longer depending on the number of the loops. Similarly, modularity is another important and higher-level property shared by various programming languages. It, again, helps programmers factor out components that are applicable to several functions, classes, or even applications. In fact, the design of for loop and modularity not only reduces memory taken up by the application and saves time for programmers from writing redundant code, but leads to a cleaner and more structural form of code as well. This simplicity accelerates the development of software (function) and brings joyfulness and relaxation to engineers when they reread their code (form) at the same time.

This principle also reminds me of the art movement, Minimalism. In post-WWII media, including visual arts and music, subtraction and simplicity are highly encouraged and praised. It is conceivable that Minimalism symbolizes human's explicit desire for the essence of design. Among all these inspiring works, the Church of the Light, a piece of architecture designed by Tadao Ando, impresses me the most. This church is constructed purely by concrete walls with a cross cut in the front. This is the simplest form of a church that I could ever thought of, but rather sophisticated in the conceptual dimension. The interaction and contrast between artificial concrete solid and light from the nature amplify the emptiness created by this space, which compels the occupants to enter their spiritual world and feel their existence. As mentioned by Ando, "The essence of Minimalism is simplicity, but simplicity without depth is merely cheap. It is not enough."

Church of the Light