Aesthetics: does appearance matter?
We are continuing to collect data and do more research as we approach the sketching stage. So I thought it would be interesting to touch the topic of appearance this week. So my questions is - does it matter?
Function vs Form
It’s PC vs Mac, Iphone vs Android, and thousands of other dividing topics that have two groups of people pinned against each other. Function against form.
It’s dumb. When you hear it often enough you start to believe that it’s either one or the other, when in reality, both things are important to us as human beings.
I think nobody would disagree that if you buy something with the intention of using it, you’d want it to help you in at least some way. It’s not art, it’s design, it has to perform in a specific way (not to say art cannot perform in a different way). Some need less function, some might need more of it. The way we use an object is personal, and one way is not better than another.
Function is logical, which makes it easy to articulate and give arguments for. It’s the thing that often sounds good on paper and what you talk about when you want to rationalize your buying decision to someone. Appearance, on the other hand, is emotional, which can make some logical minds cringe. It’s hard to clearly explain why it’s important without sounding biased or “shallow”. But even though appearance is not very logical, it does, however, have a strong effect on us.
Not MR. ROBOT
Unless you have a disorder that impedes your emotions (for example, psychopaths), they influence your life in a huge way. When you’re happy and relaxed, you’re more creative, when you’re anxious and tense, you’re more critical and focused at the task at hand. Emotions influence you, and the way something looks can influence your emotions.
Appearance is an emotional story
It tells you something about an object, and it’s not just whether it fits your style or personality. If it looks complicated, you’ll tense up around it and treat it as such. The opposite is true for simple looking things. On a subconscious level, you make assumptions about how it will work and whether you’ll like it. Similar to how every creature has developed a way of protecting itself from danger - if it looks like something that can eat you, your body will send an adrenaline rush to either fight it or run away from it.
There’s no time for logic sometimes, so your body is equipped with a mechanism that can work at an instance. Even if you have time to compare and analyze, you won’t use something you don’t find pleasing on an emotional level. We all have stuff like that laying around the house.
A great car nobody wanted
The Fiat Multipla is by far one of the ugliest cars around. It just looks weird. Like two separate cars welded on top of each other. It looks complicated and unnecessary. And that’s how most people see it, even though the functional usability is considered great. People love the spacious interior and wide view angle in a car of such size. These are thing a lot of people would love, but from looking at it you think the opposite.
What makes something look good?
Tastes and lifestyles differ. What looks good for me might be not that great for someone else. This is what we call style. But style isn't everything.
On the foundational level, there are still choices you make that are aesthetically more pleasing than others. Symmetry, proportions, and other basic concepts that are universally appealing are the building blocks of a well-designed appearance. It takes attention and care, and if done correctly, it gives an object a new level of appreciation.
Both function and aesthetics are important. The difficult part is finding the right balance between the two.
Invisible design: why do our bags look the way they do?
Okay, so there are universal truths of what can make an object more pleasing. But stylistic choices are inevitable and every designer has a slightly different take on what he or she thinks an object should look like. This is an artistic choice, and really, as long as you take care in getting the basic principles right there is no right or wrong answer.
Similarly, our bags look different. Some of our decisions are rational (at least that's what we tell ourselves), others are just a result of our surrounding. Just the fact that one designer is from U.S. and another from Europe is enough to see a difference in the final result. When you think U.S., you get the GAP. Think Europe and you might get ZARA.
For us personally, time, is the greatest asset anyone has in life. It's the thing you can only spend, not buy. As you will see, this notion influences our stylistic choices greatly. We always try to design in a way that would make an object waste as little of our time as possible.
We believe that simple looking things are, in general, more enjoyable to use and are more pleasant to look at. We hate it when an item takes up a lot of our time and requires special attention - especially if it's a piece of clothing or an accessory we want to use daily. A clean appearance is just easier to wear. It matches nice and doesn't restrict you to a single style. It doesn't ask for too much attention, because instead of being a specific style piece it's just a good-looking object on its own. A tool that can become invisible because you don't need to worry or think about it too much.
As little visual distractions as possible
This goes hand in had with simplicity. We believe that beautiful things shouldn't ask for attention and we try to hide some features from the outside, so that it can only reveal itself to the user and only when these features are used. Like all relationships, it shouldn’t have all its cards out in the open. It should have some excitement that is invisible to the outsider but appreciated by those who know it. This adds some emotion to the entire experience.
Our bags are inspired by dark city tones, urban architecture and means of transportation. Something that blends in and doesn't call too much attention. A bag that is invisible at first glance, but interesting and somewhat fresh when you take a closer look.
So if I had to distill our entire approach to appearance, this might be close - simple, clean, but somewhat exciting.
That's it for now. Next week we will talk about the things we plan on adding to the first prototype and begin sketching! In the mean time, maybe you have some personal thoughts on appearance?