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  • Writer's picturecatherine stemper

The Emperor's New Clothes

In my last blog I was discussing the first two rules of design: Form Follows Function and Keep It Simple. I mentioned twice that these rules are in place to help designers keep focused on the purpose of the design and not get too concerned, or enamored by appearance. Looking good is a gimmick. Humans are attracted to all kinds of things by our largest nerve endings, our eyeballs. The way things look to us is very important instinctively. Hence the title of this post. Do you know that old fable? It is basically how one can be fooled by the need to be attractive. I am not saying how a product looks is unimportant, but is it the first priority? Jewelry needs to look good. Jewelry is decoration and symbol. The appearance of jewelry is a function of jewelry. Jewelry also needs to be comfortable, secure, easy to wear and put on, not dangerous or painful. How do I balance all these qualities and Keep It Simple? Answer: quality design.

*Really good design should not even be noticed.* When something works so well or is so simple to use, do you consider why? The answer is good design practices. If something works well, is easy to use, and looks great too, then that is the designer's greatest achievement. My biggest pet peeve is when I fall in love with an object because it looks sooo good and then try to use it and it fails or I cannot figure out how it works, or worse yet it just functions poorly. Anything can function poorly, make it better, make it function well. It can be done.

Many fancy new products these days are actually designed to fail. They have " built in obsolescence". This is a nasty design tactic that the most critical bit is made to fail at some not so distant point. I am old school, I build it to last. Do it right the first time, because doing twice takes more than twice as long. I've said it before, good design takes time. It takes time to consider all the functions, to prioritize and organize the function/purpose. There are tricks to this process too. The first trick is research. Do the work. Use it, have someone else use it. Pass it around, get input, share with people you know and don't know. That's one of my favorite parts about selling at fairs and shows, meeting my customers, getting their feedback. It is invaluable. I've learned so many things about jewelry from the many different kinds of people who wear it and love it, and especially those who who don't love it.

I just realized that Form Follows Function gives the designer a place to start. Keep It Simple tells the designer when to stop. More on Keep It Simple next time.

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