'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful'


On my daily drive between my home on the beaches of Busan to my office at UNIST, I often use the time listening to BBC 4 radio programmes and pod casts. This morning a caught an addition of In Our Time, entitled Milliam Morris, one of England's foremost designers associated to the Arts and Crafts Movement

The programme itself was more about the man and his life than the design philosophies, approaches and practices he championed. Still, an interesting encounter.

This post is not so much about the pod cast, or the man. One quote, that I confess I had not heard before, stuck in my mind:

'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.'

This got me thinking again about the role and interaction between use and aesthetic in product design. On the one hand, the necessity for products to fulfill functional requirements. On the other, for them to be aesthetically desirable. Context-of-use, personal preferences and product purpose will implicate the extent of necessity along the two dimensions. The designer's role is to navigate a solution that is appropriately positioned in its response to the two, considering user(s) needs within context.


Everyday Design


I wanted to add a post on Everyday design. That is the ways in which 'non-designers' appropriate and reapply objects in their environments to solve often use related issues and challenges in their day-to-day lives. 

I graduate student at our institute here in Korea introduced the image above. I like it in its contrast between the original function and the re-purposed - the utilitarian, ruggedness of the boot, to a vessel for planting and holding flowers.

My interest is sparked most by re-purposing that provides a radically different use. In this case a shift from use-function to decoration. At the same time the re-purposed product (wellington boot) is appropriate for the new function because of its functional ability to hold in place the plant. This then, in Everyday design speak, is called product re-use (compared to re-make and re-manufacture).

For those interested Hyangah Kim and Woohun Lee of ID KAIST, introduce the topic well in their paper for the International Journal of Design entitled: Everyday Design as a Design Resource

Metaphoric design

I come across this in an otherwise unremarkable washroom on a coastal road I often cycle near Haeundae, Busan, Korea….


Theory on design metaphor indicates two broad constructs: a target and a source (see Nazli Cila's text on the subject from TU Delft). Broardly speaking, the source (stone) and target (wash basin) must in some way (use, function, form aesthetic), relate in order to provide grounds for successful metaphoric design. This then is no easy task.


Layered on top of this, in the case of the example above, is the material experience. Here I use material and experience to describe an emotional response to materials. Again Elvin Karana as written extensively on interactions between materials and the user-product experience. In this sense we may consider the meaning of the stone material.

In both cases (the source of a hollowed rock) and the material used (stone) does not have strong enough relation to the target (wash basin).

Aesthetically and functionally, when was the last time anyone hollowed a rock to hold water? That is, the source has very little to do with the target in terms function. A large shell perhaps, or shell-like form? 

In contrast the MUJI CD player by Naoto Fukasawa. although Fukasawa appears unsure as to why his design became an icon, the relation between (source: wall-mounted fan) and target (CD player) runs through the design, from form, to function to user-interaction. In this sense the Muji fan succeeds where the sink fails.