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BEAUTY +

By Mark Dziersk, FIDSA


Guest Editor

As senior vice president of design,Mark Dziersk is responsible for all aspects of


industrial design management at HLB. He also has worked as a consultant for
several leading design firms and as an adjunct professor at Rhode Island School of
Design and the New England School of Art & Design. He holds an MFA in indus-
trial design from the University of Michigan.

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Why is it that sometimes we just have to have a certain product?
The first PowerBook had it; the latest titanium PowerBook has it. The runaway success of: the Miata,
the Audi TT; enter them into the exclusive category of products that are wildly successful, desired—
even lusted after—by more than just a few people. In many cases these products command a premi-
um before they are introduced. Sometimes even those intimately involved in their development don’t
see it coming. Why don’t all new products have that magic—that certain allure? Perhaps it has to do
with being the first, or the smallest, or the most beautiful. Perhaps sometimes the key factor is timing.
Eames chairs had it, lost it and now have it again. The Corbusier Chaise has always had it.

+ DESIRE
Is “it” beauty? When is it more than beauty?
In this issue of Innovation, we offer to you a better understanding of this mysterious phenomena.
From Tucker Viemeister’s insightful adaptation of Maslow’s theory to Clive Dilnot’s academic dissec-
tion of the word beauty, this collection of articles contains a unique analysis of a topic of great signifi-
cance. We ask and answer many important questions. How does technology enter into the equation?
Enabling technology, manufacturing technology? Newness? Uniqueness? Appliances in cars? Can
“it” be quantified or codified? The obvious advantage of being able to get our arms around what
seems at first so subjective is to be able to execute that “it” quality repeatedly. Also included in this
issue you will find an explanation of beauty based on its mathematical roots, the trends that define
recent product successes, and tips for executing designs that transcend expectations of success.
In a down economy juxtaposed with the seriousness of recent events, exploring this topic may
seem luxurious. Practical advice seems to better fit the order of the day. But this is a time of greatly
renewed interest in design, especially by businesses looking for a competitive edge. Ten years ago,
when finance and distribution ruled the agenda, this topic probably would have been avoided. Today
it must be analyzed and understood to broaden our understanding and to raise new issues of dia-
logue and debate. When the economy and some form of normalcy return, I believe designers will be
drinking from a fire hose. When this happens, everyone is going to want the products they make and
the services they offer to achieve “it.”
One of the unspoken secrets in working on behalf of IDSA is to direct each effort into a subject
matter that you yourself crave to know more about. This ensures that your effort is always rewarding.
I have always been very curious about why some products have “it,” what exactly “it” is and how “it”
can be bottled, so to speak. Through this assignment as guest editor, I have gained a much better
understanding. After you’ve read and absorbed the insights and suggestions of these very talented
authors, I hope you will also.

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By Tucker Viemeister, FIDSA
Tucker Viemeister is heading up Springtime-USA,a new industrial design studio associated with
the young Dutch group in Amsterdam.Tucker was one of the founders of Smart Design,opened
frogdesign’s NewYork studio in 1997 and was executive vice president of research and develop-
ment at Razorfish.E-mail:Tucker@springtime.nl.

BEAUTILITY
long with speed and size, beauty is a strong

A mechanism for creating product lust. Sensuous

feel, attractive looks, smooth function, fine crafts-

manship, elegant materials—any one of these attributes builds a

bridge to the user and creates an emotional bond, transforming

an object into an object of desire. But the formula is not easy to

apply: Beauty is to function as making love is to lust. Lust is

trashy. (Gee, I feel like I’m writing some pulp romance here!) It’s

one of those seven deadly sins. But a certain level of lust is

necessary for good love making, and more important, beauty

is a necessary component of a fulfilled life.

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As a nation, Americans don’t value beauty enough. ty.” I want people to realize that even in our mercenary
It doesn’t rank high on our list of daily needs. We don’t world, beauty is good to create. Beautility is a new way
discuss it much (unless we’re talking about cosmetics or of framing beauty, as something that serves a function,
celebrities). We aren’t very beauty literate. So let’s dis- that elevates it to the bottom line.
cuss it now.…
The Beauty Experts
Beauty: The Goal of Civilization Designers are experts in the application of beauty. We
Even though we all think we know what is beautiful, have the talent and training to enhance the function,
there is no consensus. We can’t agree on specific look and feel of products. For the past few decades,
examples, but we do share a general formula for beau- however, designers have been more concerned with the
ty: Beauty is a combination of very pleasing sensual and job of making things work better. Engineering and
cerebral stuff. There is an intellectual component to a ergonomics and marketing have soaked up the design-
beautiful person and an emotional component to a er’s attention. This becomes obvious when looking at the
beautiful mathematical proof. The experience of beauty IDEA winners. But regardless of how important the mea-
is the result of convergence of body, mind and soul. sures of innovation and environmental impact are, beau -
Form and function melt together. Art and science dance. ty is the number one criteria for good design.
It’s hard to argue with “natural beauty.” Everyone Designers may do a lot of other things (research,
is awed by breathtaking landscapes, colorful flowers strategy, branding, marketing), but in the product devel-
and delicate butterflies. The trick comes when people opment cycle, designers are the only ones with the abili-
try to make beautiful things. A beautiful manmade thing ty and practice to make things look good. At Pratt I
produces a different kind of pleasure; it somehow taps learned to understand the structure of visual relation-
into the order of the universe. Making beautiful things ships and how to manipulate forms. I learned how to cri-
makes our lives worthwhile. Rowena Reed Kostellow, tique form and how to create a good one. Designers
one of founders of Pratt’s industrial design program, shape the world! We make things work well and look
once said, “Pure, unadulterated beauty should be the beautiful—we’ve always combined intellectual and sen-
goal of civilization.” sual. Design is the convergence of science and art.
Why do Americans give beauty second-class priori- Designers seem to forget: The design professions
ty? Clear the forest, build a barn, build a highway. Eat are the only ones (perhaps besides plastic surgeons)
your dinner, then you can have dessert. Although beauty whose job it is to create beauty. We are key players in
is hard to quantify and may not be a necessity, it is not a the beauty business. It is important for us not to shy
luxury either. Beauty has a practical purpose in our lives. away from style. We must not abdicate our role in mak-
It has utility. That’s why I have coined the word “beautili- ing the world a better-looking place.

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BEAUTY + DESIRE

The Beauty Spectrum Beauty’s Worth


From a pragmatic point of view, for something to be Adolf Loos was wrong. Decoration is not a crime, it’s
beautiful, it has to work. Or even better, something has a job! Although decoration is applied to the surface, it
to work to be beautiful. The Brooklyn Bridge exists only is valuable. Some of the good reasons to add decora-
because of its function, but it is beautiful. In fact, func- tion are:
tion was so important to the Pilgrims and their Puritan ■ Continuity: to connect things across different
ethics, beauty was almost a sin. Viennese Architect materials;
Adolf Loos declared, “Decoration is a crime!” Even ■ Camouflage: to disguise poor workmanship;
today, Americans find it hard to spend money on beauty ■ Sign: to signify ownership or to add meaning with
or hiring an art teacher for their kids. brand logos or religious symbols;
Luckily, architect Louis Sullivan gave beauty some ■ Attractiveness: to make it prettier or just to add
practical significance. “Form follows function,” he embellishment.
declared. Form and function are big criteria for that sci- In my work, beauty has two reasons for being: to
entific, rational, functionalist, intellectual, objective view, help sell stuff, and just to be wonderful. Theoretically, a
but that’s only one end of the aesthetics spectrum. better-looking thing sells better than an ugly one. It’s
At the other end of the spectrum is the emotional attractive, therefore it attracts! So, making things beauti-
view—art. Feelings and sensation blur together in peo- ful helps business. (Although designers often disagree
ple’s minds, disconnecting from practical needs. with clients and consumers about which design is more
Sunsets, flowers, Barbie: all beautiful. It is not practical beautiful.) Designers usually don’t get to create some-
function that makes natural wonders beautiful. People thing simply wonderful at work, unless there is some
say a bouquet of roses is beautiful. (Of course, you can commercial value associated with just being wonderful.
make them more beautiful by adding a stuffed teddy Artists get to make beautiful things for no other reason
bear!) Shiny things are beautiful; if they are gold, they than that they want to.
are even more beautiful! Sparkly things like diamonds In America, making something beautiful doesn’t
and rubies are beautiful. The most sensual thing is a carry the same weight as making money. What’s beau-
beautiful person. ty? You can’t buy anything with it! That’s why we are fas-
When humans make beauty, it is a balance between cinated by the way artist Jeff Koons’ work is worth lots
the physical, sensual, emotional and intellectual. It’s a of money and don’t really care whether his artifacts are
combination of art and science. The Eiffel Tower: function- beautiful. (But his work is definitely better than Donald
ally sublime, beautiful rivets and girders—yet totally irra- Trump’s, which is only about money!)
tional and emotionally fulfilling! The French went to great
lengths and expense to build that tower. They understand Beauty Is the Top
that beauty is valuable in itself. (After all, Paris is synony- In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow explained his
mous with fashion.) Contemplating a beautiful thing theory of human motivation with his famous hierarchy of
makes people feel good;it inspires, heals and invigorates. needs. He put our most basic, physical needs at the
Pure beauty has practical worth. Style is substance. bottom and our psychological needs at the top. Think of

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self actualization beauty

self esteem
fun

love

convenience
safety

survival survival

Maslow’s Hierarchy Tucker’s Hierarchy

cave men on the bottom level searching for food to eat, the ultimate goal of life. Like Maslow says, people desire
air to breathe and sex: simple survival level. They then something that transcends their own selves. Beauty is
move to the next level when they move into a cave, that worthy goal, connecting to the biggest ideas and
build a fire and find a stick to protect themselves; now, richest feelings. Although it is fleeting and ever expand-
they can look around for love and respect. Then at last, ing, beauty is satisfying.Making beauty is the ultimate
when they have a warm cave, a club, a loving family experience. Seeing, feeling, contemplating, enjoying a
and a nice tribe, they can climb to the top of the pyra- beautiful composition, painting—these are peak Mihaly
mid. From there, they have time to wonder about who Csikszentmihalyi “flow” moments.
they should be and how to transform their inner selves. Helping people reach this kind of Nirvana is what
Maslow’s idea is that having unfulfilled needs lower on friends are for. Rowena was right: Beauty has got to be
the pyramid prevents a person from moving up to the the goal of civilization. Design is the most valuable com-
next level. modity, so it’s no wonder that the industrial design pro-
Maslow created his hierarchy a long time ago and fession is being pushed to new heights.
couldn’t take into consideration the needs and desires In “Sleeping Beauty,” the evil queen (obviously not
of Americans today. So, I’ve made a new hierarchy for a designer) had to ask, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s
2001. Imagine the suburbanite in his Dockers; he’s got a the fairest of them all?” Is beauty only skin deep? The
house, refrigerator and a car for survival. Now he needs way people and things look is important. What’s wrong
to get comfortable with a Lay-Z-Boy recliner and a with a beautiful surface? Quality is reflected in the visual
beer—he’s reached the second level: convenience. image. You can judge a book by looking at the cover.
America is the land of comfort and convenience. We’re The objects we make and how we enjoy them define
the masters of the entertainment delivery system—all in culture. Whether it’s only on the surface or goes all the
the pursuit of happiness! OXO GoodGrips make peeling way through, the more beautiful it is, the better the cul-
potatoes fun! ture and the more fulfilling our lives. In fact, civilization
Are you having fun yet? If you answer “yes!” you’ve builds (both physically and intellectually) the environ-
almost reached the top of the pyramid. Although it’s nice ment and support for the creation and appreciation of
to have fun at work and everyone likes to escape into a beauty. Like gas and water, beautility is an essential
Hollywood film experience, I can’t believe that “fun” is civic utility that sustains our life form.

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