Monday, October 4, 2010
Open-Mindedness: "Why Be Scared of a Hat?"
Design is a word whose meaning cannot be precisely pinpointed, though this is precisely part of the beauty of the word. I inquire if the illustrations above are design. These are drawings by the fantastic author Antoine Saint-Exupery, who attributes them to a character in his novella: Le Petit Prince. Now comes a truckload of questions. Is a simple drawing a design or is it art? Or is it neither? Is there a proper or improper way to use the term 'design' if the definition is not clearly defined? These questions can never be definitively answered as language is arbitrary and as people's perceptions greatly differ. I am not quite decided myself if this drawing is a design. However I can think of additional factors that would cause this drawing to be commonly agreed upon as one. For instance, if it was a concept for a future creation or to go on a t-shirt, it would be called a "t-shirt design" or a "design concept". But on a piece of paper, with no additional factors, it is commonly considered to be just a drawing, not a design with the variable being the element of planning. It could well be considered art, but the differences/similarities of art and design is another conversation.
However, the illustrator had to plan and construct this image in his head, for design, functioning as both a noun and a verb is a process and the end result of that process. Design, according to Kostas Terzidis, is about conceptualization, imagination, and interpretation. A message addressing what can be missed due to a lack of imagination or open-mindedness can be derived from these images. Interpretation can go several ways. On the top it is a snake. The adult characters in the Le Petite Prince see it as a hat when the illustrator intends for it to be a snake who has eaten an elephant. The viewer needs a bit of an imagination to think of this. Does possessing these three qualities qualify this as design?
I can not answer my own questions. But they are food for thought. What I can definitively say is that design requires open-mindedness just as needed for the top illustration above. Open-mindedness in design and in the analysis of design and its meanings, for the debate of its definition will go on infinitely.