The Danish architect and designer Lars Vejen elaborates on five main principles of design, while discussing everything from materials to sustainability. If interested in this article, also, take a look at our series on architectural craftsmanship here.
Materials and colours
Good craftsmanship, when it comes to materials and colours, is where you can easily decode the materials behind the chosen colour or surface – a clear, simple and honest surface. In effect, the product’s face, you might say. A face that doesn’t pretend to be more or less than it really is; chosen with care and respect in relation to the product’s functionality, by which it can withstand extended use – and even possibly only get more beautiful with time – including the “scratches” that life brings.
Design – or namely, applied design – can be supplied with extra value not only by processing the whole design, but even merely on the surface by applying relatively simple means. Our body is programmed to react on the inputs we get from our senses, which is why a welcoming and comprehensible tactile experience offers comfort and increased satisfaction. A surface and a material ought to be comprehended easily, both visually and by touching, to obtain a good balance in a design.
To exemplify good craftsmanship, when it comes to proportions, I’ll use the following examples. Good proportioning occurs when an understanding of a material’s properties, visual character and a good idiom balance with the desired functionality and the intended usage of the product. A material can seem too powerful or too dominating in a concrete design, while other materials can seem too weak or expressionless, which means that the material can interrupt the design’s form and proportions. There has to be a correspondence and a relation between proportions, form and materials.
It’s indisputable that form and function go together like milk and honey, when it comes to good design. This is not saying that design can’t challenge or twist the usual way of perceiving or using stuff, although the usage of a given design shouldn’t be overly complicated or completely dysfunctional. Great functionality relates to the individual as a user, to the task, which that object must “solve”, and then it is naturally wrapped in a suitable design, where the materials, details, tactility, etc. should function together to provide an aesthetically pleasing experience.
Sustainability is often implicit with great design as great design usually is good quality and therefore in itself provides a certain level of sustainability. In this sense, a sustainable design is made to withstand temporary trends and to, quality-wise, withstand the usage it is meant for. When it comes to sustainable craftsmanship – including both the design and the actual execution – a good design is something we want to carry with us throughout life and, at best, pass along to others together with the story of the design’s dings and dongs, scratches and lines.