Good Design: Honesty of Purpose

I’m going to talk quite a lot about good design aesthetics … hope you’re ready to go old-school.  If you’re not… perhaps you could console  yourself by realizing that if you intend to break the rules, it’s nice to know what they are (and why they are!) first.

Honesty of Purpose:  Object should do what it is designed to do.

You’d think this would be obvious, but let us take the grocery sacks from a couple of posts previous.  You buy them, and when you use them… they break.  So your grocery bag designed to reduce waste becomes waste.  Fail.

Similarly, one *could* choose to wear a chiffon party dress to garden.   One could.  But it would be a foolish choice.  Or – more likely – one could use a cheap material to use in one’s gardening clothes, one that rips easily and takes stains… and then be quite upset that your gardening clothes look not merely “well-used” but “used by a pigherder in the rain”.

Honesty of Purpose is why homes with small children and numerous pets should never have white upholstery or carpets.  The purpose of a couch – to be sat upon by the owner thereof – is removed.  The purpose of a carpet – to be walked upon – is ignored.  (Having had a few epic failures in this over my years keeping house, one of the first things I ask myself when deciding on new furniture or appliances is “how easy is it to clean?”)

If you examine things made by other cultures, particularly Asian, you can find some outstanding examples of beauty and utility in one.  Japanese tools, for instance.  Exquisite.  No extra ornament, simply functional and clean… but so much what they are that the tool itself becomes a pleasure to see.  A pleasure to use.  And so, it increases in worth.

Honesty in Purpose, when contemplated, can save you from a multitude of mistakes in this day and age.  “Will this object do what I want it to do?  What maintenance does this object require?  How shall I store this object?  If I use the object as I truly intend to use the object, will it break?”

Honesty in Purpose, when applied to clothing, sounds like, “This jacket is *so* fluffy – but it’s made out of faux fur which is made out of plastic, and it’s not warm at all.  I live somewhere I need to stay warm!  I think I’ll go for the lined and interlined wool coat, even if it’s not quite as fluffy.”  (Or contrariwise – “This jacket is for a small girl, who will only get one season’s wear out of it.  It’s inexpensive and she’ll be thrilled with the flourescent pink fuzziness.  She’s hardly out in the weather… why not get her something fun?”)

We often forget to ask ourselves where we want to wear the clothing we’re purchasing (or making) and what we’ll be doing when we get there.   And nearly all of us in this day and age forget to ask *how long will it last* (and how long will it look good?).

Rule one:  Your object should do what it’s made to do.  It should do it well.  The better it does its job, the more aesthetically pleasing it will be.


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