1. Any imaginable shape

    The thing which sharply distinguishes useful design from such arts as painting and sculpture is that the practitioner of design has limits set upon his freedom of choice. A painter can choose any imaginable shape. A designer cannot.

  2. Useless work on useful things

    Anyone can verify by simple observation two important facts.

    The first is, that whenever humans design and make a useful thing they invariably expend a good deal of unnecessary and easily avoidable work on it which contributes nothing to its usefulness.

    The second fact is that all useful devices have got to do useless things which no one wants them to do. Who wants car to get hot? Or to wear out its tires? Or to make a noise and a smell?

    1. ​The works of God​
    2. ​If you have to do tedious work​
    3. ​We might as well make them beautiful​
    4. ​Against form follows function​
    5. ​Combinations and arrangements​
  3. Presentable

    I have sometimes wondered whether our unconscious motive for doing so much useless work is to show that if we cannot make things work properly we can at least make them presentable.

    The inverse of Red Green's maxim:

    If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.

  4. The principle of arrangement

    It is really rather remarkable that, while anyone can tell whether a thing is a pocket-knife because, presumably, anyone can recognize the principle of arrangement which constitutes the similarity between all pocket knives, no one can visually abstract that arrangement. We recognize it when we 'see' it embodies, we can describe it disembodies, but we cannot visualize it disembodied.

    The best we can do is draw prototypical examples, we cannot picture the platonic ideal—if we did, it would be just another embodies example. Maybe this is just a truth by definition.

  5. The minimum condition

    When a device is so designed that its component parts are only just strong enough to get the intended result without danger of failure, we may say it is in its minimum condition.

    I suspect that the functionalists sometimes meant by functional design simply design aimed at the minimum condition for a device. In that case 'form should follow function' would mean that every system should be in its minimum condition, thus having certain limitations imposed on its form.

    1. ​Form follows function​
  6. When design gets too easy

    Design has invariably exhibited styles because some clear limitations on freedom of choice are psychologically necessary to nearly all designers. When design gets too easy it becomes difficult.

  7. The one best way

    It is a most diverting spectacle to see the experts in work study exercising their considerably ingenuity to find the one cheapest way of doing operations which could perfectly well be dispensed with; for example, getting shiny surfaces on furniture. The 'one best way' of doing things like that is not to do them.

  8. The versatility of flat surfaces

    The versatility of flat surfaces is not commonly seen in nature.

    1. ​Deep Interlock​
    2. ​The works of God​

    Flat surfaces create good fit internally in a system, but often very poor fit with the external parent systems they inhabit (e.g., a house on a rocky hill).

    Flat surfaces make it harder to achieve deep interlock with the surrounding environment.

  9. The works of God

    2019-08-18 22.26.27.jpg

    Via reddit

    Thus the first and most important stratagem adopted to cheapen construction was the squaring and turning of components in order to eliminate offering up and individual fitting. The flatness, straightness, and squareness which more than any other characteristic distinguish man's construction from the works of God, derive from economy. We see the mark of economy in every building of squared masonry however magnificent it may be. Only the few remnants of ancient polygonal masonry remind us that the pattern of stone work where each stone is individually fitted can be very different from the cheap squared pattern to which we are accustomed."

    1. ​The versatility of flat surfaces​
    2. ​Useless work on useful things​

    Pye also writes: "Look at your ceiling. It is flat. It would be easier if it were not flat."

    The point being that people (designers more often than not) do a lot of useless work on useful things for the sake of appearances.

    In web development we have the opposite situation. It actually is easier to make things flat when creating a webpage. It's easier not to have gradients, or drop shadows, or a number of other debatably useful/useless things that we design into digital form. And yet we do them.

    This trend has lately reversed itself somewhat with 'flat' design, but a survey of the size of the CSS served by top websites of today should be enough to convince anyone that we're still doing a lot of useless work on useful things, just from the opposite direction.

  10. Skill vs. knowledge

    We should say that anybody has skill enough to build a good dry-stone wall but that few know how to design one, for the placing of the stones is a matter of knowledge and judgment, not of dexterity.

  11. 6 methods for economical design

    1. Use readily available materials.
    2. Use easily worked ('wasted') materials.
    3. Avoid dexterous labor.
    4. Use standardized materials or components.
    5. Avoid intermediate states (get straight to the final product).
    6. Use standardized language and geometry. Design only what can be easily communicated.
  12. A strangely negative character

    Utility has a strangely negative character. We speak of the secret of happiness, for its causes are elusive; but there is no secret about the causes of unhappiness: thirst, hunger, want of sleep, exhaustion, pain, constraint of movement and too great heat and cold, are evils which can effectively prevent happiness. Utility has a negative character, because useful devices are adopted in the main for the sake ultimately of avoiding such evils.

    From the fact that deadly injury, pain, and exhaustion prevent the fulfillment of the universal wish for happiness, we have always tended to infer that if only life were safe, comfortable, and effortless, we would be happy. It does not follow.

  13. Sine qua non

    What we see of a device is rarely the essential part, the sine qua non, but nearly always the superstructure which economy has imposed on it.

    It seems that the work we call purely utilitarian is not more useful than its more ornamental counterpart. It is merely more economical.

  14. The contribution that something in them yet compelled them to make

    Makers and designers must gradually have come inwardly to believe that half their work had been mere frivolity because it had been avoidable, and because some of it had contributed nothing to the satisfaction of people's material wants. This must have affected them like a conviction of original sin.

    The idea that utility was the purpose of work overpowered them and seemed unanswerable. From that time on perhaps the artist and workman have been weakened by an inward suspicion that they are supporting a lost cause. They have perhaps half-believed that the world could get on very well without the contribution that something in them yet compelled them to make.

  15. No more than a sketch

    The quality of a musical performance depends on the performers as much as on the score. The performers are said to be interpreting the score, but in fact they are adding intention of their own to those of the composer, recognizing that no score can in practice ever fully express the intentions of a composer, that it can never be more than an indication, a sketch; and no designer can in practice ever produce more than a sketch.

    1. ​The work is what it means​
    2. ​The meaning of music​
  16. Purpureus

    Our way of talking about surface quality as 'texture' is rather like the ancient Roman way of calling anything bright colored 'purpureus' on the principle perhaps that any bright color was much the same as any other.

  17. The weather in the space

    The architect's special preoccupation is first to decide what kinds of spaces shall be enclosed.

    All manner of different considerations will influence an architect's decisions about the shape of the spaces they are to enclose, but the chief of them will always be the probable activities of the people who will enjoy the weather in the space.

    Not with what structures should be built, but which spaces should be enclosed. This is also the preoccupation of urban planners, and maybe all design professions are ultimately about the shape of space rather than the shaping of matter.

  18. Holding together a civilization

    It is only in the present age that it has been asserted that 'architecture is not an art' or 'should not be an art': and that strenuous efforts are made to made a distinction between design and art. And nowadays we build cities of such a quality that no one likes living in them, everyone who can do so gets a motor car to escape from them. Because of the multitude of motor cars, escape is now denied us, the country is destroyed, and the cities become still less tolerable to live in.

    All that is the consequence of contempt for art. Art is not a matter of giving people a little pleasure in their time off. It is in the long run a matter of holding together a civilization.

  19. A cumulative effect

    It is a cumulative effect, this character. It results from the combined impact of the design of a great many separate things, none of which is so very atrocious but too many of which are flatly negative, wanting. The design of each single thing in the environment, however small it may be, is really important.

  20. Scenery

    What is designed and made outlasts the people for whose profit and for whose use it was made.

    We may think we are designing furniture of motor cars, but we are not. If we are designing a motor car for one man, we are designing scenery for fifty thousand others.

    1. ​And thus the heart will break​
  21. Something more is required

    Efficiency, the capability of performing effectively, never made anything beautiful yet and it justifies no design in itself. To say of a design 'it works, it does its job', or 'it gets the intended result' no more commends or excuses it than to say of a man 'he has never actually defrauded anybody'. That is not what virtue means! Something more is required.

  22. Beauty is like a joke

    If some story makes you laugh aloud, then something in it causes the experience which issues in laughter. But can you describe that something to a person who does not think it funny in such a way as to make him see the joke and experience just what you have experienced?

  23. A being-without

    Not having a toothache is no goal for a lifetime. Happiness, however one defined it, is not something negative, a being-without.

  24. Some emptiness in us

    Whenever we encounter beauty we become aware, each time with a sense of shock and pleasure, faint though it may be, that some emptiness in us, not consciously felt but continually present, has been assuaged and fulfilled. We have a sudden high sense of completeness and harmony.

    1. ​The Timeless Way of Building​
  25. The matrix of all we know

    Man's species has existed for an immensely longer period, unimaginably longer, in an unmodified natural environment. That unmodified environment was the matrix of all man knows of beauty. All the means of his experience of beauty evolved in it. Now, in the artificial environment, art creates an equivalent for that beauty, for it is a need of man's spirit.

  26. The evolution of devices

    All the first antecedents of man's devices were given him by Nature. Every one of his devices is traceable back to something in nature which suggested the first remote and primitive beginnings of its evolution. And every feature in art that man's mind conceived is conceived by a mind that has evolved as a part of nature: that grew out of nature.

    The evolution of devices is as much a natural process as the evolution of organisms.

    1. ​The Evolution of Useful Things​

    In all of history, not a single new thing has ever been made.

  27. Deliberate acts

    I do not know what one should call the landscape of a long cultivated countryside, or the enchanting pattern of lights which shows at night time in a modern city seen from overhead. Are these not works of art? It is scarcely justifiable to say that these things have taken shape by chance. Each part of them has been made as it is by what seemed a deliberate act, and it need not necessarily be assumed to be a matter of chance that the results of many acts of many men over a considerably period of time should harmonize together aesthetically.

    1. ​The Timeless Way of Building​
    2. ​A Pattern Language​
  28. The skill of perception

    The newborn baby and the [blind man suddenly gifted with sight] do not have to learn to see. Sight is given to them. But they do have to learn to perceive. Perception is learnt and learnt slowly. Skill is required for perception as for speech. We are largely unaware of the skill we exercise. None of the things we have to learn to perceive are self-evident, or, apparently, instinctively evident. No doubt, however, we have an instinctive aptitude for this learning, and once we have learnt we cannot easily see as though we had not.

    As Ruskin says, one has to strive, if one is to see with the 'Innocent Eye'.

    1. ​The innocence of the eye​
    2. ​the innocent i​
  29. Who did the teaching, then?

    It has been contended sometimes that our response to works of art is entirely learnt and in no way innate; but the questions 'Who did the teaching, then? and how?' have not, I fancy, been much investigated. This contention is very true of our responses to styles and fashions, but it is not true of our response to beauty.

    Environment teaches fashion.
    Culture teaches style.
    Nature teaches beauty.

  30. No kind

    No kind of shape, no kind of design or kind of picture or other work of art can be beautiful. No kind of color is beautiful. Beauty comes always from the singularity of things. Two things which happen to be closely similar in size, color, insurance value, smell, weight, or shape, may both seem equally beautiful. It is not therefore to be deduced that, say, a smell of turpentine is a necessary prerequisite of beauty; and nor is the fact that the two things' shapes are measurably within a millimeter of each other. They might still be as different as chalk and cheese: they might differ hugely in surface quality so that one lived and the other was dead. One judges a man by what he is, by his individuality, his idiosyncrasy; not by his measurable properties or measurable behavior or by the shape of his nose or the description in his passport. So with a work of art.

    1. ​The Timeless Way of Building​

    A thing is not beautiful merely for belonging to a category of things in a particular style. Only individual objects are beautiful, not styles.

    The reference to living and dead objects has a kind of Alexandrian phraseology.

  31. Tradition

    Change is of the essence of tradition. Our declining civilization has largely lost the conception of tradition as continuous change by small variations – as evolution, in other words – and can produce only fashions which, one after another, appear, live for a little while, and die without issue.

  32. What a greenhouse was for

    The new-found ability to make a wall all of glass had advantages, undoubtedly, in certain particular cases, but not in nearly so many as the Bauhaus stylists pretended. It is not forgotten by those who have to work in buildings with these glass walls that their propagators must have known quite well what a greenhouse was for and what it did. That knowledge counted for nothing beside the imperative necessity of showing how new the 'new architecture' was, by doing something obvious different from the fenestrated walls of the styles which had preceded it.

  33. The act of creation

    What I suggest has usually happened [during the act of creation] is this: the artist has glimpsed something: he has seen, perhaps fleetingly and indistinctly, some particular relation or quality of visible features which had previously been disregarded, and which impressed itself on him by its beauty. By means of making a work of art he then seeks as it were to fix isolate and concentrate what he has seen.

    No one has ever succeeded in demonstrating in principle how this is done, but done it is; and when we see it done we find it hard to understand why it should have been so intensely difficult to do.

  34. The imprint of a man

    Art is the imprint of a man: a creature whose nature is idiosyncrasy sparring with conformity.

  35. Déjà vu

    The artists expression may make us aware for the first time of something we had too little regarded or had not been fully conscious of, presenting us with something which is quite new to us and yet at the same time disturbingly familiar – déjà vu.

  36. The signature

    It has long been understood that striving for originality as an end in itself is the mark of an inferior artist. The personal style of a good artist is never something that has been deliberately cultivated and forced but something that has appeared unsought as inevitably as the personal style of a man's handwriting.

    But since artists of note are seen to have a distinct personal style, no artist can hope to make a reputation in a competitive society unless he too can show a distinctive style which easily differentiates his work from that of other artists and draws attention to it. Therefore artists of little capability or uncertain vocation will take great care to make their work look 'different', whereas those with any certainty in them will know that their work cannot help but look different from that of other people any more than signatures can.

    It is worth reflecting that the fact of the unmistakable individuality of each man's signature is one foundation of modern commerce everywhere. To establish the individuality of it one need not write it vertically up the page in letters two inches high. And yet there are only twenty six letters, and everyone else uses them too.

    1. ​Over-imagination​
    2. ​A fresh focus of power​
  37. It will not stand still to be pointed at

    The cause of the experience of beauty is a series of events, not a state of affairs existing continuously. That perhaps is why the cause of the experience is something we find impossible to point out. It will not stand still to be pointed at. We can point out only what we perceive. We can never point out or describe what we see.

    1. ​Time and space​