Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Design - do we understand it?

After reading Sonali’s thought provoking article, I decided to explore more on ‘the design’. I came across this beautiful definition by Paola Antonelli, Museum of Modern Art,

“Good design is a Renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need and beauty to produce something.”

However, the struggle at most times is that a beautiful design may not be functional enough and hence beat the purpose of its creation, whereas a functional design may not appeal and retain the audience and hence may fail to attract enough eyeballs.

Let me explain this better with the following example on automobiles. Most American- make cars like Jaguar, a few Ford and Chrysler (previous) models were based not on solid functionality but on the market surveys that told the car designers what consumers find beautiful!

One classical example being Cadillac that (inspired by the airplane design) eventually failed due to its extraordinary length that made manoeuvring the car at corners tough (yes! even on American roads), the infamous fins made it very heavy and hence a gas-guzzler. (You may like to read a book titled ‘How Cadillac got its fins?’ to find more about this design)

Whereas, the Japanese cars, which are purely based on function and utility rule the American roads due to their efficient and fluid designs. Not only are these fuel-efficient, have efficient engines, but inmost cases are aptly dimensioned for eased driving.

Coming back to instruction design this means that if instructions are logical, structured, flow well, are based on learner friendly technology and appeal to the learner, in most likeliness these instructions will fall under well-designed category and hence the design should be successful.

So it seams one of the biggest struggle is managing the functional and aesthetics balance in a course. Any tried and tested methods out there?


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