Monday, April 13, 2009

An experiment in design

This blog will be an experiment in design - my once unrecognized and unreciprocated infatuation. For long I've admired from afar - obsessing over the production design of movies like Blade Runner and Dune. Spending countless hours collecting, replicating, and cataloguing the details of objects with amazing aesthetic appeal - sometimes things that did not even really exist, like Kaneda's Bike from Akira (but a quick google search will tell you I'm not the only one taken by it's design).

But I am no designer. An aspiring developer, yes. An aspiring editor of video and film as well. I even web design, and though I've been involved in all these outlets for years I can't help but feel like a Jack of all trades (and a master of none).

But that's ok because I'm finally seeing the potential.

Through the deliberate use of visual and narrative elements, movies suspend your disbelief. If viewers must "buy" into this vision then the aesthetic must work to sell. Production design builds on the emotional content of the script to convey a world critical to that emotion.

Coders construct programs - tools that, though built atop complex logical patterns and interlocking "modules", ease the completion of certain tasks. If designed effectively these programs allow users to comprehend parameters of the task without being bogged down by the inner workings of the program (or the task) itself. This level of abstraction is taken a step further. Not only is the task simplified through the "lens" of the program, the program itself is also simplified through the lens of the users preconceptions and emotional bias towards the task. These are the concerns of user interface design.

Design is as much about function as it is about form. As much about the internal as it is the aesthetic.

When I take this into account, I understand my attraction to web design - it fits somewhere complicatedly between the two, but it's the complexities of these connections that make them ripe. I tried to flush out more of these parallels but reading a bunch of blogs and sites about web design will quickly reveal just how new a field it is.

So I started looking backwards - specifically at architecture, another field very much concerned with the balance of the technical and the aesthetic. Of both form and function. This is a parallel of more relevance than you think - in programming, Design Patterns are one of the major tenants of Object Oriented code, but the idea (and the phrase) have origins in architecture. It's these kinds of conceptual bridges I'm after.

Through case studies, exercises, and a fair bit of tinkering and research, I'll - among other things - dissect areas where artistic and technical design intersect gracefully. There are fields that have been around a lot longer than the mediums we work with, but are rich in wisdom, methods, and techniques of relevance to today's designer. The tenants of efficient programming tell you to avoid reinventing the wheel, I'm just trying to figure out what else I can avoid the reinventing by re-contextualizing information from other similarly balanced fields.

I also want to know how many of these paradigms that are normally relegated to one facet can be applied in a wider scope to a project. If my website's code is Object Oriented, what would it look like if the visual design was "Object Oriented"? What if the day to day of your business we're run according to the tenants of OOP? These are just some examples of things I'll be getting into on this blog. I'll also talk about actionscript/flash, graphic/motion design, general programming, branding/corporate identity, frameworks (both programmatic and otherwise), photography, inspiration, post-production, and much much more :)

When a concept intrigues me I'll share all the pertinent information I've found, speculate on how and where else it can be applied, and document my success (or lack thereof) with applying it to the design business I'll be starting, with source code, assets, and explanations all along the way. This blog is an experiment in design and journaling of my attempts at patching up the holes in my skill-set. A guide to others hoping to build bridges, and - hopefully - a resource that'll inspire some valuable dialogue on all related matters. Most importantly it's a place where you'll find free stuff, if you're a designer. We all know how designers love free stuff.

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