Katherine C.

Sunday, Oct 2, 2022

Music 256A / CS476A, Stanford University

Word count: 445

Reading Response: Design is Constraints

From this week's reading, I'd like to respond to Artful Design Principle 1.11, which states:

Principle 1.11: “Design is constraints, which give rise to interactions and, in turn, aesthetics.” (p. 43)

— where constraints are “underlying rules that govern the use of the design,” interactions are “where the user engages the design,” and aesthetics are “what is ultimately experienced.”

I am very intrigued by how Ge illustrates this principle with an “Artful Design Iceberg.” From this metaphor, it seems like he is implying that the designer-facing constraints (purpose/idea, technology, function, form) is greater than the user-facing aesthetics (sense, cognition, what is ultimately experienced), and what we see is only a small percentage of everything else that’s going underneath. Is it really true that the unseen portion is greater than the seen? If design is human-centered and we’re designing ultimately for what is experienced (as implied by Principle 1.13), I feel like maybe the portion of the iceberg above the water surface should be equally big as, if not bigger than, the portion below the water surface.

In addition, I'd like to make a connection between design as constraints and art as constraints. This principle reminds me of an article that I read arguing that the difference between art and design is that art is about internal constraints and design is about external constraints. It seems that design constraints are usually tied to form and function and imposed by the user (e.g. I want my client to be able to do this and feel this way so I will create this), whereas art constraints are usually self-imposed (e.g. I like cats so I will make something cool with cats). Some followup questions to this principle:

Finally, I am also intrigued by the three phrases listed at the bottom of the page: “battered hulls of failed designs,” “murky depths of untenability,” and “abyss of ill-definition” as these are not part of the Artful Design Iceberg and are at the bottom of the sea. I wonder what defines the line between a successful design and failed design, as well as what makes something untenable and ill-defined. I would like more explanation on these if possible.

P.S. I think the penguins on the page are really cute. Splash splash.