Reading Response #1

to Artful Design • Chapter 1: “Design Is ______”

Frankie S.

2022 October 1

Music 256A / CS476a, Stanford University

Reading Response: Why Aesthetics?

From this week's reading, I'd like to respond to the idea presented in Artful Design that addresses the ‘why’ behind aesthetics and design. More specifically the quote “we humans are not purely utilitarian creatures–we feel”. This idea that playfulness and something about the delight we feel when we engage with tools and designs in the world strikes me as not only wonderful but also quite inspiring. The way I often hear people talking about engineering, or STEM in general for that matter, often comes back to functionality at all cost. Before this summer I remember thinking that the corporate world was only concerned with this idea. That we would be better off as machines that weren’t so concerned with feelings or art. It used to make me so sad and quite honestly pretty pessimistic. Reading this first chapter about how design, and more specifically artful design, integrates the values of pragmatics and aesthetics was both refreshing and inspiring. Definition 1.2: Artful Design Evolution of creative design in synthesis with problem solving; useful design emphasizing aesthetics deriving from needs as well as human values. “A type of everyday poetry” I am glad to see some intentionality and explicit value being placed on beauty and art in this way. I really believe in this as one of the key pieces that makes us human. It’s funny because this same idea of realizing that the world is a bit more considerate and cognizant of humans in their humanity came to me through the project I was working on this summer. I was lucky to be working on a team creating an HR tech platform all about helping to create teams that work better together. I had to interview a bunch of VPs and leaders at companies, who I originally thought would be hard pressed about performance and optimization. But having heard them speak, even with all my skepticism, I was so delighted to hear them empower and speak with incredible gratitude and pride about their employees. That they explicitly cared about these people and their livelihood rather than optimizing for performance and profit. While there were some outliers for sure, this made me feel like there still is hope and space for emotion, and art, and beauty in this world of unending progress. And additionally, continuing to care for and appreciate the people in life at any stage (college and beyond) will always serve us well. Both this experience and this chapter make me feel that there is still hope for us. That in clinging to beauty and art we can find eachother again. Even as we slip further and further apart.

ChucK Program

Design Etude 1

Frankie Sperka 02 October 2022 Music 256A with Ge Wang


1. Icarus Loaded Longboard


This is a board to be ridden by people whether for leisure or travel. This board in particular can be ridden in such a way that it can be pumped, a process by which riders can generate speed by oscillating back and forth. To me this board is the pinnacle of good design. Its woody / bark inspired aesthetic makes it feel like a piece of nature. It’s jagged grip tape sticking to the board to provide traction but in a way that is beautiful and surprising. Its curvature is also super unique and useful in that it makes the ability to pump much easier–as if the board wants to move forward with each turn. The bamboo board deck also provides a lot of bounce and flexibility as you ride for a smooth and enjoyable skate. The colors are fun and energetic, but in a way that still feels natural and wooden. The large wheels also make it easier to board around rough roads and decrease the likelihood that wheels catch and skid stop underneath acorns.

2. The Open Door Policy

The “open-door policy,” is a policy by which underage drinking is permitted in residences as long as residential staff are made aware of where and when it is happening. This was the policy that I was introduced to when I first got to Stanford, and one that similarly exists back at home (in Wisconsin you can get into bars with a parent even when you are underage). Aesthetically this policy allows for safety and openness with experimenting with alcohol in a way that is much more productive and realistic than the traditional ‘under-the-rug’ approach the America has. I am a huge believer in honesty and openness when it comes to EVERYTHING, and alcohol is no exception. With this policy I felt safe to find what was right for me without being ashamed or anxious or dangerous with the quantities of alcohol I and my friends had to consume in short time spans under higher stakes. I think policies like this encourage communication and honesty from the very start, and when those conditions are met trusting communities flourish.

3. Mini Metro

Mini Metro

Mini Metro is a mobile application game in which players try to build an optimal metro system to transport passengers around various stations without overcrowding. Everything about this game is perfect. For starters, it serves as a way for people (like myself) to slow down during the chaos of a busy day. It achieves this through its gentle minimalist visual design, but also through the speed at which the game operates. Passengers and trains move slowly so as to not overwhelm the user–even as the game continues to get more difficult. The transitions between screens have a game board feel to them as you rotate and slide around the app from screen to screen. The lack of crowding on the screen gives users space to breathe and relax. And the slight haptic feedback as a user is so delightful as you connect station to station.


Guerrilla Design

I know this doesn’t look like much, but I actually re-aesthetically organized this photo wall to reflect a pseudo-map. To the left you will find Northern California, to the right you will find Southern California. Up top you will find Eastern California and at the bottom you will find Western California. While this is completely unnecessary, I think it’s so fun to integrate my interest and love for people and photos with my appreciation for maps. It’s my own personal photo map.