In defense of eye candy


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We’ve all seen arguments in the web design community that dismiss the role of beauty in visual interfaces, insisting that good designers base their choices strictly on matters of branding or basic design principles. Lost in these discussions is an understanding of the powerful role aesthetics play in shaping how we come to know, feel, and respond.

Consider how designers “skin” an information architect’s wireframes. Or how the term “eye candy” suggests that visual design is inessential. Our language constrains visual design to mere styling and separates aesthetics and usability, as if they are distinct considerations.

Yet, if we shift the conversation away from graphical elements and instead focus on aesthetics, or “the science of how things are known via the senses,” we learn that this distinction between how something looks and how it works is somewhat artificial.

In the early 1900s, “form follows function” became the mantra of modern architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright changed this phrase to “form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union,” using nature as the best example of this integration.

The more we learn about people, and how our brains process information, the more we learn the truth of that phrase: form and function aren’t separate items. If we believe that style somehow exists independent of functionality, that we can treat aesthetics and function as two separate pieces, then we ignore the evidence that beauty is much more than decoration. Our brains can’t help but agree. 

Image and article courtesy of A List Apart …

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