is taste the death of art?

Working in a ‘creative’ role, the line between objectivity and subjectivity can sometimes become a little blurred when trying to create innovative solutions for clients. We all have our own inbuilt perceptions (or prejudice) of what is or is not appropriate or ‘stylistically’ suitable as a particular response to a design brief. This could be termed as our own particular design ‘taste’, and is something that needs to be both fought against, and at the same time grown, in equal measure as we learn to develop our own individual creative sensibilities and understanding.

Pablo Picasso – Mandolin and Guitar

Pablo Picasso – Mandolin and Guitar

Pablo Picasso famously declared that ‘Taste is the enemy of creativity’Pablo Picasso

To be free of the constraint of taste, is a noble aim, as it opens wide the gates to new creative possibilities and opportunities. Of all the things I learnt whilst studying my BA (Hons) degree in Architecture, the issue of taste was probably the most vital and longest-serving lesson of all!

One of our projects during the second year of the course, was to study the work and a particular building by a specific Architect for a two-week period and then give a presentation about it at the end. We were divided up into small groups and allocated a different Architect to each group. Our group was given the Azuma House in Osaka, Japan, by self-taught Japanese Architect Tadao Ando

Tadao Ando – Azuma house

Tadao Ando – Azuma house

My heart sank! For me at the time this was exactly the type of Architecture that I really had very little interest in or time for. On the surface it appeared to be cold, sterile, and utterly un-appealing concrete box. However as we had no choice or alternatives, this was the Architect/building we had to study for what could have been the longest two weeks of the course for me!

However, through the studying and drawing of the building, looking into Tadao Andos ideas, the culture, the society, the materials used and all the different factors that went into the deign of the building, I had an epiphany moment!

Tadao Ando – Azuma house 3D section

Tadao Ando – Azuma house 3D section

Through the enforced period of study of the Architect and this specific building, my personal perspective and understanding of Tadao Andos design rational changed. Armed with a greater understanding of what he was trying to achieve, my point of reference/perception changed, allowing me to more see the reasons for why the building was how it was. This helped change both my intellectual understanding and emotional response to the building. Instead of rejecting it out of hand, based on my limited knowledge, I now had a way to access its ‘language’, which then brought me to a position of appreciation and dare I say, even a love for it! Oh how fickle our emotions can be!

So now when I approach a design brief or problem, I find it exciting to start with a clean sheet of paper with no preconceptions of what can or cannot be brought into the mix or used as a source of inspiration. I love to embrace the challenge of learning things from unexpected quarters, so that I can bring a fresh perspective into my work.

Thanks for taking the time out to read this, as ever, it is always much appreciated! Please feel free to share it with your friends, and add any thoughts or comments you might have on it…

Chris

Would having less, make you more creative?

Recently I was looking at a UK designed brochure that had been recently translated and reproduced in Chinese. It was really interesting to see something that on the surface seemed so familiar, suddenly appear so unfamiliar.

As I was casually flicking through the pages, I was suddenly aware of something that, to my shame, should have probably been blindingly obvious, but the typeface used had no visual differential between uppercase or lowercase, all the characters were of the same height. I had just never really noticed or been aware of this previously when looking at translated material, or when looking at design that used Chinese type.

Despite my linguistic ignorance, I have had a long-standing curious fascination with Chinese and Japanese pictographic styled text. To me, it has an instantly appealing graphic and emotive nature to it that is hard not to be fascinated by!

The Passion 4 logo in Traditional Chinese type

The Passion 4 logo in Traditional Chinese type

OK, so my mini Chinese typographic epiphany set my mind thinking. How would my approach to typographic design change, if the whole western concept of upper and lower case type was removed?!

The use of upper/lower case type can often be a key (western design) element in creating an interesting distinctions in type design or in creating logotypes, but would not having it as an option at my disposal, force me into thinking in new and different ways? Would having less, actually make me more creative?

This is why I liked to be creatively and in this case, culturally challenged, it helps to develop the way you think or approach problems from a whole new perspective.

It brings it home that design is often not such a universal cultural language. What resonates in one culture, could easily be seen as being odd, irrelevant, ignorant or even offensive in another. Greater cultural understanding and awareness can bring a richness and diversity to our design.

Some interesting Chinese typeface facts/differences…

  • The English alphabet only has 26 letters.
  • The Chinese language has over 8,000 individual characters, of which about 3,500 are most commonly used.
  • Chinese typographers, would not only need to design 26 alpha characters, but would also need to create at least 3,500 Chinese characters and their traditional/simplified equivalent.

Thanks for taking the time out to read this, as ever, it is much appreciated! Please feel free to share any thoughts or comments you might have on it…

Chris

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PS; With the Passion 4 t-shirt design shown above, I have to give a big thanks to my Taiwanese friend Asha for helping my understand a little more about Chinese type!