Sunday, May 05, 2002

Eye of the Beholders

Peterme and Doc are thinking about beautiful design per Don Norman's request for all things beautiful. This has sparked a big Sunday morning conversation at our house.

Like beautiful girls, are beautiful objects just supposed to sit there? Where does the issue of function come into play? Ever touched a beautiful blonde's heavily hairsprayed hair? Yuck. Or tried to get a beauty into bed, just to find she is not at all compliant — inflexible and poorly designed? Or if you get her there, only to find that she's just too dumb to bother with? This was the design genius of a beautiful object named Marilyn Monroe — attractive, playful and obviously smart.

We were talking about our Camry this morning. We find it absolutely drop dead gorgeous — because it is so understated and so reliable. A recent commercial shows a mom showing up for daycare on time in a Camry and talks about how you can depend on certain things — and there's a beauty in that. But surely, it's all in the eye of the beholder. (Notice the kid looking at the mom who's just arrived — now that's a beautiful mom.) We think the Camry is beautiful, but we're not 25 and single and lust after small red sports cars.

Of course, the TARGET ads are beautiful as they throw every green thing into one ad, justaposing brands and doing it wryly. And almost all Apple products are beautiful. And just about anything Handspring makes is beautiful. And I agree with Doc, GirlRepair is drop dead beautiful. But they are also highly functional.

Our house votes for simple and elegant design which lets function lead the dance. Hitting that note where function and design are both integrated and therefore transcendent is the trick. Good luck.