14 December 2009

appearance vs. functionality

I've always been a firm believer that design – print, web, interior, architectural, horticultural, whatever – is nothing without functionality. All the style in the world can't make up for a design that doesn't in some way improve the life of the user.

Here's an example: I just moved into my own office space, a tiny, tiny room (with a window!) in the heart of the city, here in Hong Kong. The rent's a package deal, including high-speed internet, air conditioning and a tabletop and chair. Sweet, right? Except that the chair – the stylish designer chair that's featured in all the ads for this place – is really a lounge chair, designed to be set in front of a coffee table. Not in front of a desk. Sitting in it is worse than anything I've ever experienced, comfort-wise; without the emergency pillows I stole from home, I would have had to raise my hands above shoulder-level in order to reach the keyboard. Yeah.

So needless to say, by the time I was able to order my own real office chair and get it in here, I had complained and moaned to just about everyone I know. And the thing that bothers me the most is that the people who put together this whole office rental package and signed off on the marketing plan KNEW it wasn't an appropriate chair for this setting. But hey, it's much more attractive than a black foam thing that swivels, right? It looks better in the pictures. And here I come to my point: in this case appearance was more important than functionality. And that, my dear readers, drives me absolutely crazy.

So to get to my point of this post, there's a book in the works that I'm really quite excited about. It's called "Cadence & Slang," and it's about interaction design – the art and craft of making technology easier to use. Not something that I have a whole lot to do with as a print designer, necessarily, but something that's fascinating to me nonetheless. And besides, I fully agree with the author when he said in this lovely book review that good design is universal, and that everyone experiences and benefits from it. Here's some more info about the book on kickstarter – which I'm brand new to, but it looks like they've got a really great thing going.

So as I sit in my comfy, well-designed office chair, I am grateful that there are some things in this world that are well thought-out. My sanity (and my back and shoulders) are safe once again.

03 December 2009

poster design series

My bread and butter usually comes from pretty basic, utilitarian projects, but every once in a while I'll get a chance to work on something that's artistic, truly a form of visual expression. And because I'm still working my way up toward the goal of being able to hand-pick my projects, my regular source of inspiration comes from other designers' work. Specifically, posters and book covers.

There's something so pure about the limitations of posters and book covers: all of the meaning, the message and the beauty have to fit into one panel of space. Simplicity is a forced rule. And as a result, the good ones are really, really good.

I came across a beautiful series of posters done by Simon Page, a self-taught graphic designer from the UK with an emphasis on typographic art, illustration and geometric design. His recently published posters are featured on David Airey's blog. Great stuff.

02 December 2009

here we go

Alright, my peeps, after a long summer/fall trip to the States to visit family, including having unexpected knee surgery, I can finally say we've arrived in Hong Kong! Our year in London was great in so many ways, and I'm grateful for that experience, but because my husband was in graduate school during that time, it's nice to finally move on to a place where we can have two incomes again.

That being said, what an amazing city we got to live in for a year... and what an amazing city we get to move back to now. There are certain things I definitely missed about Hong Kong (we had lived here for two years before London), and it's good to be back. And the most exciting thing of all: I now have my very own office space in the city! Hooray for having to commute for an hour and battle the crowded sidewalks and bus exhaust to get to work! No, actually I'm totally serious. I couldn't be more excited about getting out of the house (the kitchen, to be exact) that I've been working in for a while now, and nothing yells importance like your own office space on the fifteenth floor in Causeway Bay. Ask me in a few months' time if I'm still excited about the commute. I bet you I will be.

And... one of my goals for Oratia is to start blogging, on a reg-u-lar basis. (Something, as you can see, that is outside of my comfort zone.) I hope this blog will eventually become a resource for fellow designers out there, in Hong Kong as well as around the world. Not that I'm a great writer or anything – far from it – but there are plenty of great writers out there who have some great things to say, and I'd like to point out the places that I've personally gleaned some knowledge or inspiration from, in the hopes that others will benefit as well.

So stay tuned, and thank you for your support.