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.

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