I think aesthetics are like paradigms. They start developing as soon as we are born, the things we see, the emotions we feel, the colors we taste, the smell we hear. Like paradigms, aesthetics mostly changes and adapts itself to the environment and to the society.
While working with various designers and clients, I seem to notice that the less you know about design, the more your individual aesthetics sense comes to the forefront. For example, a couple of years ago a client of mine was quite adamant to use the color red in his poster which was for his spa.
It seemed to clash with my tinted aesthetics sense – databases of colour theory knowledge – using peaceful soothing blues to denote peace, calmness; lighter shade of blue would also reflect pureness, lightness and tranquility. But how was I to convince this client?
So when I asked him, he said, and I politely quote, “I want to use red because it stands out.”
I guess every person in the design industry must have heard this line. RED – red stands out. It stands out probably because after this color no other color can be seen by the naked human eye, because after red everything becomes infrared.
It’s probably the first color we see in the womb, the color we are made of, the color of our mum’s bindi, anything to do with vanity, the garish scar on the knee, the color fail written on your paper, the road signs, the road blocks, the big fat Indian wedding bride, love – not only on Valentine’s day, anything and everything that wants to stand out.
So what is wrong if this poor chap wants a red poster for his spa just because he wants it to stand out? Are you going to make him remove his paradigm glasses which he built since he could see, to put on someone else glasses whose standing out color was say black because of all the sin he’s seen and the music he’s heard? Are we supposed to swap paisleys and baroque with pickachoos in the future?
You may say it is individuality. But how do we communicate this to a society with norms and regulations? Isn’t that why we created global standards? Everything has a standard to live up to nowadays; it’s easier to work with standards too. Write books, back it up with theories, publicize it with blogs, and bang! It’s sold. You have a million people following it like moths to a light.
The easiest example I guess is the term web 2.0. Oh! It’s hilarious- the number of people using the term these days to fit their own understanding. Interfaces, fonts, colors, usability – everything has started becoming a clone of everything, under the huge umbrella of web 2.0. Buttons in 80% of web pages remain the same, glossy, double shaded ‘web 2.0’.
From where I see, web 2.0 is a paradigm too. When a designer comes up with say, a better button – not necessarily glossy or double shaded – it gets immediately shot down by people like us in the industry who have gotten used to certain ways of looking at things and relating to things. We don’t like changes because it takes a helluva long a time to adapt, right? Then we get this factory one-size-fits-all design out, and boom! The client buys it because it looks very much like the benchmark website.
It easier said than done to create your own benchmarks, but we need to see brands as individuals and not succumb to the client’s personal aesthetic sensibilities. The client probably will quit a couple of years later, but the brand will live on forever. As designers I think it’s our responsibility to get good functional designs out, and educate clients about designs – on the need to use a particular color, font, image.
Now, we go back to aesthetic sensibilities. As designers we need to feed our brain with all sorts of imagery to constantly change our glasses which are our inspiration. One’s foundation of design sensibilities should not be trends and fads – it should be balance, rhythm, harmony, functionality.
Finally, let me sum it up with: lizard brain is what black is to fashion like blue is to corporates. But we aren’t all wearing black right now, are we? Check and see just in case!