to Artful Design Chapter 1

From this week’s reading, I’d like to respond to Artful Design principle 1.10 which states “Design is subtraction”. This is one of the principles in this chapter that I resonate most deeply with. When I think about many of my favorite pieces of music, many of them are my favorite because of a simple but powerful rhythm and/or melody. Some examples that come to mind are the opening guitar riff in Californication by the Red-Hot Chili Peppers, the intro to The Circle of Life, or the chorus of Hallelujah.

Another example where this idea shows up a lot in my life is writing software. Writing clean, concise, simple code that’s easy to understand is undoubtedly satisfying. It also tends to be easier to maintain, modify, and explain to others. Furthermore, in my experience, this process typically takes the form of initially writing more than is needed, and then procedurally removing and modifying lines to condense and simplify the code, just like the process described in the chapter at the top of page 40.

On page 42, in reflecting on the elegance and simplicity of Eulers formula, Ge states, “Pondering this formula, one bears witness to a fundamental relational TRUTH or – if you will – Design of the Universe we inhabit.” Reading this quote immediately made me think about a YouTube video I watched a few years ago which grapples with the “Design” of the universe. In math and physics, we know there are many constants that just happen to be what they are such as the speed of light, pi, the golden ratio, e, the masses of the elementary particles, the constants defining the fundamental forces that bind matter together, and many more. The video states that there are roughly 20 fundamental constants of nature based on the standard model and general relativity and how, if some of these constants were even just a little bit different, galaxies, stars, and life as we know it, would simply not be able to form. This leads to three possible conclusions:

• We got lucky, and these fundamental constants just happen to be in the right range for the universe and life as we know it to exist.
• Someone fiddled with these constants be it God or whoever built the simulation.
• Neither 1 or 2 are true, there are simply enough universes that somewhere these constants are tuned to the right values for life as we know it to exist and that is naturally where we find ourselves.

After watching this video, I believe that option 3 is the most likely, and to me the most beautiful. To me, this “Design” of the universe is beautiful because it is also a simple explanation. I like the idea of infinite universes, each with a random “tuning” of these constants, and therefore somewhere there is a universe with the right conditions for life and we naturally find ourselves there.

Etude 1:

Item 1: My Guitar

While the purpose of the guitar is simply to make music, it evokes multiple emotions in me because of the time I’ve invested into learning it, growing with it, playing it, struggling to play it, and more. Aesthetically it is simple. A nice piece of wood with a simple but iconic shape that immediately represents music. It was designed to make a beautiful sound and to look sexy. In my mind this corresponds to values of joy, love, and intimacy. Combining these things, I can’t help but find my guitar beautiful through the emotions and memories I have with it along with the simplistic form and sleekness.

Item 2: My backpack

My backpack was designed to carry things. I’ve had it for over 5 years now and it has served me well as a hiking backpack, school backpack, travel backpack, and everything in between. I find it beautiful and find it meaningful due to the personal attachment I have to it after all these years having it in so many different places and through every part of the last 5 years of my life. I also think it’s beautiful because it is blue which is my favorite color. It was designed with tons of pockets and more pockets inside those pockets which I find fun and useful.

Item 3: My laptop

My laptop serves countless functions from doing homework, playing video games, researching things, planning things, sending emails, and much more. I find it beautiful both in its function and its in simple design. I have also added stickers over the past year, adding character to it that I believe represents my personality which further adds to why I find it beautiful. While the functions feel disconnected from its form, I find that the simple form of my laptop coupled with the endless functionality it has is a beautiful thing.

Part 3: Guerilla Design

For this part I added Aesthetics to my morning routine. Instead of brushing my teeth normally, I did it to the rhythm of another one bites the dust and found this positively impacted my mood and set me off on a good start for the day. I plan to try something similar in the future with other aspects of my morning routine.

Chuck files: https://ccrma.stanford.edu/~mabrams4/256A/hw1