Design or Pornography

March 28 2013

Occasionally we debate whether something should be classified as design or art. We decide if the creator was acting as a designer or simply an artist, implying the latter is weaker and less desirable.

When we diminish someone's else work to art, we're claiming there is nothing more to it than its looks, implying if it were "design", it would have a deeper meaning. Alternatively, when we elevate work to art, we're claiming it came to existence by an unknown, black magic. We're using the same word to describe both a good and bad thing. (Youssef Sarhan talks about this practice in this recent article.)

The question should not be if a piece is art or something else, but rather, we should ask if the piece holds meaning beyond its aesthetics. Is it worth more than the obvious, or is its only value in its cosmetics?

Pornography doesn't try to hide what it is. In essence, porn has one purpose: to get the viewer really excited (to understate it). There is no conceptual meaning in what's happening. What you see is exactly what you get. When we create something while ignoring its purpose, our creation becomes nothing more than pornography.

Design is always based on something deeper than the obvious. According to Massimo Vignelli, "There is no design without discipline. There is no discipline without intelligence." In designed work, there's always another level to what's on the surface.

In our work, we shouldn't focus on the superficial, but rather, focus on something deeper. Aim for particular goals and solve specific problems; by doing so, we'll drive people to extreme excitement, because it works well, not just because it looks cool.

design article