The elements of beauty (some of them)By Javier Cañada
What makes things beautiful?Is beauty permanent? Do we see beauty inthings that were beautiful 20 years ago?Will this beautiful object be beautiful in 30years from now?Is beauty a cultural construct? Do we seebeauty the same way Asian or Africans do?Can something be beautiful globally?
GeometrismHumans have a tendency towards geometricalshapes. The simpler the more we like them.We arrange and align everything, from our iconson the computer to our papers on our desk,according to geometrical, linear patterns.Basic shapes such as the square, the rectangleand the circle, along with simple 90º or 45ºcurves are our favorite.
In London’s Underground Map(the mother of all metro maps)line paths, although verydiﬀerent one from another,were all represented in curvesof 90º and 45º angles to simplifyits reading.VW Beetle is another exampleof geometrism through thereduction of its shape to 3circles Band & Olufsen speakers come as cones, circles or reclangles
The rectangle, and speciﬁcally theone aproximating golden ratioproportions, have been used andprefered since the early Greekperiod. Now check your iphone’s screen size.
UnityUnity is deﬁned as the state of being undividedor broken. In product design it is the tendency touse as few percievable shapes as possible in theform of an artifact.Unity may be achieved through the simpliﬁcationof materials, shapes or permiteters.Simplifying form goes in hand with reducing thenumber of functions in an artifact, which endsup simplifying the product and its use.
NeutralityNeutrality is the quality of not expressinganything. Neutral design uses neutral colors(white, black, grey or transparent) to minimize itsvisual impact.Neutral objects merge better with anyenvironment and allow for user expressioninstead of product expression.
some examples of neutrality in iconic productsnote how they are also good examples of geometrism and unity
TimelessnessNeutrality, geometry and unicity make fortimeless objects. Timeless designs are notsubject to trends, they are always formally valid.The business advantage of pursuing timelessdesign lies in the fact that a timeless productneeds less or none design revisions to stay thecurrent trend.
Braun SK2 radio, was Google’s homepage Polypropylene chairdesigned in 1962. Its has remained almost has sold more than 20design could be from the same for the last 10 milion units since itany decade. years was ﬁrst produced in1963Its shape is also agolden ratio rectangle!
SymmetryOur association of symmetry with beauty may berooted on our animal nature. Symmetry isusually a sign of health and a good inmunesystem since successful attacks to our bodiestend to leave marks and eﬀects on any of oursides. So the more symmetrical the healthierone is and the more attractive it is for mating.Symmetry relates to any of the x, y or z axes inan object. That’s why we consider the sphere(symmetrical in all axes) to be the most perfectshape.
Volkswagen is always a great example of geometrismand symmetry. The Beetle is symmetrical to threediﬀerent axes.
Suggested readings“Taste for Makers” by Paul Grahamhttp://www.paulgraham.com/taste.htmlInside Steve’s Brain (pages 68 to 89)Leander KahneyOrnament and CrimeAdolf Loos