Shape of Design
I just finished reading through The Shape of Design by Frank Chimero. I took my time with this book, even though it is a slim book and I could have read it in one sitting, I split it up over the course of a week - reading a bit each day and then chewing on what I had read. I’ve long admired Frank’s writing and his speaking. Thank God for videos of the speaking since I’ve never seen him in person. I backed this book right away and am so glad I did. It was definitely worth the wait to receive it.
Instead of actually reviewing and going through the book, I’m just going to pull some of my favorite quotes out of it and let you get intrigued and hopefully buy it yourself. These are the things I chewed over and came back to after reading each section. Since I read the epub version of the book and pages change based on orientation, I’m just giving the chapter for my location in the book.
The relationship between form and purpose - How and Why - is symbiotic. But despite this link, Why is usually neglected, because How is more easily framed. It is easier to recognize the failures of technique than those of strategy or purpose.
I really enjoyed the way he talks about getting started, that we rush past the objectives of a project into how to do it way too often, I know I am guilty of this on many occasions.
The first step of any process should be to define the objectives of the work with Why-based questions. The second step, however, should be to put those objectives in a drawer. Objectives guide the process toward an effective end, but they don’t do much to help one get going.
But the objectives aren’t enough, we need some freedom to explore and play.
Using the structure and affordances of content, tone, and format, once can riff on how the elements interplay and come to exceptional ends.
I absolutely love the way he uses jazz as a reference point for design. I think that making changes, being inspired, and riffing, as he puts it, is exactly how good design is achieved and it takes time.
[W]e monologue to listen.
I talk to myself quite a bit and in the book the idea of talking to oneself as a way of listening comes up. That listening is the most important part of a conversation and I love that.
It means that products of design are not autonomous objects, but are creations that bridge in-between spaces to provide a way toward an intended outcome. … A train station that doesn’t create a lust for exploration is flawed, just as a cathedral that doesn’t inspire awe is a failure.
The leap between what we design and how that interacts with the world is so well put and made me actually stop and think about what I consider successful design and what I consider failures.
[T]he things that we make are more than just objects. They’re the way we paint pictures of what’s to come. They are the projects that give us license to imagine a better future for ourselves and everyone else. These objects represent the promises that we make to one another and symbolize the connections between us.
This is what the book is all about to me. We create, but our creations are about so much more than just the objects. So much can be wrapped up in them and they can do so much more in the world than we sometimes imagine.
Thanks Frank, for such a thought provoking read. I will most definitely be reading it again.