Dec 1, 2012

Harmony and Design

When we designers speak of Harmony as a design principle, we usually mean a good design is expected to have all its parts fitted together aesthetically, or organically, resulting in delivering a focal point of interest in completion. Any element that does not contribute to the integrity of the whole shall be taken away. As with all endeavors involving human, it has to fit in with the taste of a discerning viewer, the reasonable man of our legal assumption. As such, the harmony principle faces the following areas of complications which unfolds itself when facing the taste of a discerning or knowledgeable human subject.

Firstly, too harmonious a design will be boring. Like music, when all the melody notes come from harmonious Major and Minor Chords, the piece will be sweet, but will become boring hearing it a few times. We need notes to generate dischord at the right time, to deliver surprise and suspense, in order to give us more lasting aesthetics. A designer job is the same as a musician, to create element of dischord to drive away the monotony of an expected comfort.

Secondly, people have changing taste within the definition of harmony, or people define harmony-in-practice differently. In the era of Kings and Queens, Prince and Princess, elaborate decorations would be considered to be harmonious designs. Beginning from the era of Bauhaus on the 1920-30s, in response to the immense possibility of mass manufacturing, people started to appreciate designs with the barest elements to define a new design. In our modern world in which the spirit of free choices runs supreme, designers have almost infinite freedom to tailor their designs to an increasing number of commercially viable niche markets.

Thirdly, the fast pace of the modern world makes people getting bored even more easily. Previously unacceptable disharmony become harmony, and designers are trying newer and newer approach to test and to extent the taste of the consumers. Music is one area where creativity runs at a wild pace. With the modern sound synthesizer, undreamed of sounds (chord, dischord or noise depending on one's taste) are being made everyday, some will forever be considered as noise, and some will be included into the main stream harmonic sound one day - becoming an acquired taste through frequent exposure!

Below is one of my Shangri-La ring, with the well-balanced centre stone set within the garden of a natural habitat of flora and funa, a mixture of chord and dischord. A lasting piece of art.

Sabina Lee - Shangri-La ring

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