The Purpose of Design

Go back backyard landscaping

There’s a bit of a cultural stereotype that comes with the term “artist” or “designer”. The words generally conjure up the image of an individual whose nose is continually elevated in the air . . . a scarf of some sort is always involved, even in the dead of summer, very important things are constantly being discussed (over lattes, of course) that 99% of the earth’s population couldn’t possibly understand . . . and, sometimes, there is a small dog . . . for no apparent reason.

This, of course, is all true.

Okay, the part about the dog is true . . . and maybe the scarf.

While this may be a dramatic stereotype, I think what DOES give people a negative vibe when it comes to artistic designers is the sense that what is being done is art, just for the sake of art. This impression, if true, would make the world of design seem irrelevant to the majority of people who don’t want to waste their hard earned money on something intangible. But is it true?

In some cases, I think it is. A painting by Picasso will sell for oodles of money, all for an image of a guy with two eyes on the same side of his face. While I can appreciate the revolutionary artistic genius of the man, I don’t see that painting hanging in my house improving the life of my family in any way . . . particularly since buying it would mean they wouldn’t be eating for quite some time. In the same light, there is a particular museum that had an addition put on it recently that is a wonderfully artistic structure—but the vast majority of people looking at it resemble a dog tilting its head to the side with a look of confusion.

So . . . where is artistic design relevant? What is its purpose?

Well…I will offer my opinion.

Design, to me, is only relevant WHEN its true purpose is implemented—to invoke a positive personal emotional response in the person or people for whom the design is created. If this does not take place, design is not relevant.

Over the years, I’ve had countless conversations about the idea of a “backyard revolution.” (I even created a digital video series entitled exactly that!) The reality is, I think it’s catching on and I doubt I was the first one to notice! There’s a lot more to it than just cool-looking decks, but these concepts do all tie in seamlessly with artistic design. I’ll explain by asking a few questions.

How do you know a good song when you hear one? How can you even say that one song is good and another is bad? Did you go to Julliard to study musical composition?

The most common answer to that question is, “I like the way a good song makes me feel.” There it is! A positive personal emotional response.

What about buying a house? What made you buy the house you live in over all the others you saw? Did you study architecture? 

Again . . . NO! The common answer is, “I liked the way it FELT when I walked in.”

Positive Personal Emotional Response.

The purpose of design when it comes to transforming the backyard is to create an outdoor living space that makes you FEEL good just to be there. Is art being used to create those good feelings? Yes. Is it relevant art? Well . . . I’ll let you decide!

As for me . . . I’m off to buy a scarf.