Good Design: When is it too much?

I like to think of myself as someone that knows good design when I see it. Knowing design is good and liking it however, is not the same thing. The likeability of design is a personal thing, and thank goodness for that! If we all liked the same stuff, the world would be a boring place indeed. Imagine if we all drove the same car, wore the same clothes, had the same houses and the same hairstyles. Boring.

And while new and innovative design is based on this dislike of same-old same-old and the need to make things better, the question remains: when has something been over-designed? When does pushing the envelope become falling off the table all together?

Moooi recently released Marcel Wander’s new Nest Chair – a tubular frame with oversized botanical prints. I love the juxtaposition of the slim frame with large format print, of the industrial with the botanical.

nest_chair_flower_bits_by_marcel_wanders_for_moooi-forweb-moooiUsing juxtaposition is a very useful tool to create obvious contrast. But when you use it to do only that, to create contrast without regard for material or form, it starts to jeopardize the integrity of the piece. It becomes forced, contrived. And even if that was not the intended consequence, when the contrast in the public eye is so controversial that is borders on ghastly, does it mean that the public is uncreative and uneducated and that haute design should not be accessible to the masses the way many schools have intended?

Or does it mean that the principles of good design have been compromised?

Many designs have failed in the market for this reason, for being too far removed from acceptable with no way of being adaptable to a mass market format. But not all designers intend for their pieces to become consumer pieces – some create them as art where the intricacies and materials aim to make a statement, where they are never intended to be used in the conventional sense. Yet while some of these designers are producing fantastic examples of great design, considering the principles as well as breaking the boundaries, some are really just trying too hard – whether it be art or design.

With design as with art, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. But good design is not a matter of opinion: it is based on sound principles and techniques and while innovation is about looking at things in a new way, it is the responsibility of the designer to always uphold good design: spontaneous and beautiful, yet sound.

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