January 31, 2004

Designing for People - Chapter 5: Through the Back Door, Chapter 6: Rise in the Level of Public Taste

For the sake of completeness, I'm addressing these two chapters, but not in as much depth as the others. This is where Dreyfuss is weakest, and exposes a certain time-boundedness. Chapter 5 attempts to boil down art and design history in three pages -- but it's so cursory that I suspect the veracity of his history. He puts forth that industrial designers weren't able to bring their new, functionalist aesthetic in through the front door, because it conflicted too much with contemporary styles, but it worked through the back door, because in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry, "utility transcended tradition."

Chapter 6 defends the aesthetic taste of Americans. Dreyfuss puts forth a populist notion of the masses now able to appreciate good design thanks to modern production and design. He also (unwisely) goes on and on about how American people have awakened to fine art, classical music (as evidenced by the success of symphonies on television!), and theater. What Dreyfuss couldn't have known in 1955 (or could he?) is that while television may have seemed a cultural panacea in 1955, it wouldn't take long for its higher aspirations to be dashed on the rocks of a more crass commercialism and appeal.

Where this chapter succeeds is in pointing out how designers draw from a variety of sources to inform their approaches, aesthetics, and ideas. Historic forms demonstrate that which has survived through the ages, and probably with good reason. The experimentation of avant-garde creators "gives us courage to try new forms, techniques, and materials."

Dreyfuss relates an experience he had, presenting to Dutch product manufacturers how to appeal to American tastes. Cognizant of the language barrier, Dreyfuss found a visual solution: he juxtaposed images of products from a Sears Roebuck catalog, contrasting 25 years prior with the contemporary designs.

Designing for People - Sears Catalog pages
(Click image to enlarge)

This exercise encourages me to consider "before" and "after" designs of website home pages. While hardly the best measure of the evolution of design approaches and tastes, it would provide a glimpse. At some point, I'll main the Wayback machine. But to continue...

While it took Don Norman about 15 years from the publishing of The Design of Everyday Things to acknowledge the importance of aesthetics and emotional appeal in design, Dreyfuss understood the impact of appearance:

...I am convinced that a well-set dinner table will aid the flow of gastric juices; that a well-lighted and planned classroom is conducive to study; that carefull selected colors chosen with an eye to psychological influence will develop better and more lucrative work habits for the man at the machine....

I believe that man achieves his tallest measure of serenity when surrounded by beauty...

Posted by peterme at 11:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


See Me Travel
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
Archives from June 13, 2001 to January 2003
Archives from before June 13, 2001
Recent Entries
Designing for People - Chapter 5: Through the Back Door, Chapter 6: Rise in the Level of Public Taste
Subscribe to my feed:
Powered by
Movable Type 3.2