The ABCs of Design – Great Design Must Be Art

The ABCs of Design – Great Design Must Be Art

By: Jay Johnson This blog article is the first in a series of 26 related commentaries that seek to answer the question, “What is Interior Design?” by exploring various terms associated with the profession. The first entry, Great Design Must Be Art, seeks to examine the connection between art and interior design. Although we have begun with the letter “A”, there is no promise that we will continue alphabetically. We will probably jump around quite a bit. But you, friends, should know from the onset that the die has been cast. The topics have been pre-determined from art to zen. “Art is solving problems that cannot be formulated before they have been solved. The shaping of the question is part of the answer.” ― Piet Hein What connects art and interior design? Of course, there are many things. Perhaps foremost is that great design must be art. Using Hein’s definition, we can readily conclude that for interior design art to be great art – which, of course, is the optimal goal of all art – it must solve a problem. “Art is solving problems…” That is to say, interior design is solving problems.

Here’s your chance. How would you complete this sentence? Interior design is ___________.

Hein’s emphasis is this: the one who desires to design something great must be willing to work for it. Training, research, interviews, sketches, tests, failures, and speculations are all inherent in the design process. The ability to anticipate challenges and address them before they appear is an integral skill of any great designer. Careful and thorough anticipation is inherent in great art and great interior design. Perhaps anticipation is what separates great design from good design. We’ve all seen buildings that have become obsolete. Their designers did not accurately anticipate how the facility would be used in the future. Along the way, it no longer solved a key problem. Consider American airports. Most were designed in the 20th century on the concept that friends and family need to be able to accompany the traveler all the way to the boarding gate. This design allowed well-wishers to spend the absolute maximum amount of time with their loved one before releasing them into the dark confines of the jet way and a potentially perilous journey ahead. Acres of seating were installed at the boarding gates to accommodate the masses. This concept worked satisfactorily until late 2001 when the world was changed in a moment. No airport designer could have anticipated the events of September 11, much less the tremendous impact it would have on airport design. In an instant, the program changed. Suddenly it became necessary to reposition much of that seating to locations outside the security check point. Nearly 15 years later, airports all across the land have been renovated or replaced because of that change in a fundamental design criterion. No one could have anticipated it. No one did. We began this article by noting that great interior design, like great art, is solving problems. In order to solve them, the designer must anticipate future challenges. But none of us can perfectly predict what will happen tomorrow. We must do the best we can with the information we have before us. We ask hard questions. We seek difficult answers – or better yet, simple ones. We consider the solutions from every known angle. This is art. This is interior design.

Here’s your chance. Answer this question: What do you think connects art with interior design?


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