Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Design Topic 2: What is good design?

I would like to share my personal opinion of what I feel creates good design.

My experience comes from years of working on all facets of the craft of blacksmithing. I have taught numerous classes on blacksmithing and explained this discussion to the participants with regard to the topic of design.

I will use this railing sample to illustrate my explanation.This is an original Boone Wrought Iron design by Robin and Smyth Boone in 1997.

Here is another view.
This design is located on a large house that one drives up to. When a person drives up, they will notice these horizontal lines with some sort of uprights/verticals holding the lines perpendicular to each other and sitting on top of a stone wall on the perimeter of the house.

Next, in the vertical dimension, one notices the oval shapes with "arms(scrolls)" crossing over each other on top and reaching out to connect to the straight vertical bars. The scrolls are attached with collars and seem to hang the whole center element in the air. This motion lifts the viewer's eye higher into the design. It is not a static design, it is active. The "hanging" of the central element gives the design some stress( another blog subject to come...) and seems to have the element floating from the upper connections(collars) which creates visual stimulation.

A lot of suggested triangle shapes present themselves to the viewer in an inverting repeating manner. One can quickly realize the interesting patterns and are then hopefully interested enough to look more as they get closer.

As the viewer gets closer to the railing they realize that the upright straight bars have a twist just above half way up which creates another relationship between the twisted bars and the height of the collar on each oval element. The twist also creates interest for the viewer. The details keep coming alive as one gets closer to the piece.

This drawing is by Robin Boone:
Please note the imaginary triangle between the three collars. Humans are naturally attracted to triangles which is one factor that helps this to be a successful design.

Next, the viewer will notice the positive and negative spatial relationships going on. The positive space is the solid bars and the negative space is the air between the solids. This is one of very interesting aspects for your eyes to actively perceive. Once again drawing the interest of the observer.

The next aspect, after the viewer is enjoying the design and is interested in learning more, is touching the forged railing. This is the ultimate for the blacksmith/artist because not only is the design successful enough to engage the viewer visually, they can be assured the person will love the soft hand forged feeling(texture). All of the bars have had they corners softened by being hand hammered from the fire and sanded for a soft touch. The observer then finds that everything is soft to the touch, yet very hard due to the fact that it is made of steel and is an impenetrable border. Irony is intriguing; and therefore, another successful design technique for the artist to use.

Another interesting aspect once one is very close are the forged details that show up. For instance; riveted tenon joinery, the collars are made of 1/2 round stock, and the overlapping joints at the main upright bars, to mention a few.

So... my idea of what constitutes good design is...

At every vantage point the viewer finds something intriguing and interesting from the design keeping them participating by engaging their mind/soul by continuing to look at, absorb, touch and/or "feel" the art.

Hopefully, the art is memorable and perhaps subject for further discussion and exploration.

Smyth Boone


Mystic Silks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mystic Silks said...

Subject matter very informative. Your fences are true works of lasting art!

Reg said...

Very interesting blog! I actually think my Aunt has one of your pieces--I am going to check with her and see :)
Oh and my Son will be all over you being a descendant of his hero! :)

Have a great day!