Thinking about design

Design is so important. It’s in everything we do. More importantly it pulls stories together.

To learn a bit more about design I decided to read Massimo Vignelli’s “The Vignelli Cannon”. This was a read suggested to us this week but I was more than happy to dive in and invest my time in reading it. This piece taught me more about design than I could ever imagine. Like Vignelli mentions young kids need to learn the foundations to design. I am sitting here as a 21 year old and while I feel I have a good grasp on the concept of design I believe it could’ve been taught better or more frequently. Design is something that we just assume we know, but we don’t.

In his piece, Vignelli states that there are three aspects to design that he feels are significantly important. They are; semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic. Semantic ultimately stands for the search of the meaning of whatever it is we have to design. He further explains that this meaning could be found potentially in research on the subject to better understand it’s nature. This helps us sort through and find the most appropriate way to develop our design, whatever it may be. We want to design something that has meaning we don’t want it to be purposeless. Vignelli really emphasizes how we want the subject to be understood in all aspects.

Moving right along syntactics “the discipline that controls the proper use of grammar in the construction of phrases and the articulation of a language, Design” (Vignelli 12). Syntax is provided by numerous components such as structure, grid, text, headlines, etc. Consistency is a huge component to syntactics. Without consistency design would be a mess. However that being said this aspect was one of the harder ones for me to understand.

Finally, pragmatics is if the design is complete and if those understand it. If it is not understood than it is considered wasted effort. Once the semantics are correct and the syntactics are consistent then the overall piece should be tied together and understood. Clarity is emphasized in this aspect, ultimately clarity of intent will create clarity of the result. The overall message from Vignelli is that “the artifact should stand for itself in all of its clarity” (Vignelli 14). This is a very important statement in my opinion when it comes to design.

In my opinion what makes a poster look like a poster and a book cover look like a book cover is the design elements that characterize that particular item. While posters can look extremely different from one another and while book covers can look extremely different from one another the elements used such as proportion, balance, size, etc. help label it as such. Vignelli states in his writing that grid provides structure and continuity from book cover to book cover. Size plays a factor in determining design.

Design is so much more than just putting together words and photos. While words and photos are important in design there are more elements that are necessary to ultimately create an accomplished design. You have to take in aspects such as grids, typography, size, shape, color, contrast, texture, etc. This also helps distinguish design as more than just decoration. Decoration is an element that is utilized to compliment something. Such as a christmas tree, we decorate this item to make it more presentable. That being said design isn’t something we throw on an item to decorate it. Design is the whole piece, its a dozen little elements intricately put together to create one.

I feel like this week kind of brings everything we have learned in previous weeks together. Since the beginning of class we have explored photography, audio, video, etc. All of these pieces are built into design, they have ultimately helped me create a better understanding as to what design truly is. When contemplating design I think of an interior designer. My mom is one and as I think about that career it has helped me comprehend design more so. When designing a home or a room my mom has to consider so many different aspects to construct an overall project. She doesn’t just throw a pillow on a couch for decoration, she is intentional with everything that she does. And that is what I think design has to be, intentional.

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