Thomas Matthews on Good Design: Appropriate, Sustainable and Beautiful

Topics: Sustainability, Sustainable development, Environment Pages: 6 (2113 words) Published: March 9, 2012
Thomas Matthews defines “Good’” design as ‘appropriate, sustainable and beautiful’, what do you think they mean by this and how does this definition relate to the times we live in?

Thomas Matthews defines ‘Good’ design as ‘appropriate, sustainable & beautiful’ (2010, www.thomasmatthews.com). They describe their work as ‘high quality, innovative design at a time when simplicity of solution and clarity message matters’ (2010, www.thomasmatthews.com). This report explores what this definition means using interviews with Eric Benson, Scott Boylston, Arthur Calverts, Emmi studio, and Tilt. It is important to recognize that though the quote seems simple, it actually describes a very complex idea that is open to interpretation, and although these three terms together might now be a new way of describing good design, in the past they have all been separated.

In order to understand the significance of the quote, we need to understand the importance of designing more responsibly and the difference that it can make. Matthews believe the foundation of their studio is the push to always do better; they believe designers have a wider responsibility, and work with campaigns, such as NO SHOP, tackling the idea of advertising encouraging one to purchase things one doesn’t need (Image 1). It’s a designer’s job to be sustainable; design should be both innovative and visually appealing, and should not compromise the needs of future generations. Being sustainable: ‘it isn’t hard it’s just not simple’ (Jedlicka, 2010 p.Vii). It’s difficult to make the right decisions when it comes to the environment, so it is necessary to be well informed in order to make good decisions (Aaris, S. 2008).

‘The beauty of design is that there is more to it than meets the eye’ (Clay, 2009 back cover). Beauty is not just appearance; to some people its ethics and methods of production are just as important in how beautiful an object is. So how do you judge beauty? ‘Any system of aesthetics which pretends to be based on some objective truth is palpable ridiculous as not to be worth discussing’ (Clay, 2009 p.8). Beauty is entirely subjective to nature and is judged and experienced by everyone differently. It is, in fact, in the eye of the beholder. Because individuals have similar tastes, things like beauty seem almost objective; they really aren’t, those opinions are reactions to sets of objective features, which we tend to react to similarly, but not identically. ‘Beauty relies on meaning; personal meaning and cultural meaning.’ (Boylston, 2011). Culture plays a role; often people who don’t think of beauty as subjective are those who have had no exposure to other cultures and their standards. Beauty can relate to the environment, and what might look beautiful to the eye might in fact be grotesque to the environment. As a result designers’ redefine the beauty of a project; from its appropriateness, its beauty is determined.

Design needs to work; it must fulfil its aim and if it doesn’t it’s worthless. It needs to be ‘appropriate’, which according to dictionary.com, means: ‘suitable or fitting for a particular purpose, person, occasion’ (2011, www.dictionary.com). If appropriate, the form must follow the function; the principle is that the shape and look of an object should be primarily based upon its intended purpose. Ludwig Miles van der Rohe adopted the motto ‘Less is more’ to describe his aesthetic approach by organising the necessary components on a building to create an impression of extreme simplicity; he took over the Bauhaus in 1930 and believed the Swiss style was the new modern way, which emphasised cleanliness and readability. When working with BRAUN (image 2) Rams then adapted this term as ‘Less and more’, which has left us with a legacy of no waste and no decoration a legacy of a notion that simplicity and clarity lead to good design. (Rams, D. 2009)

He put together 10 principles of good design as he was concerned by the state...
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