Anyone who thinks that Engineers lack design sense (in the Aesthetic sense) should look at the things that Engineers designed in the 1930's. They looked strong, solid, sleek, fast. In their own way they were beautiful, definitely not awkward. Even the weapons of WWII had a very rugged practical look.
Of course, that was a day when Engineers sketched things by hand. Their inherent sense of fit guided their pencils. It wasn't a conscious thing. They simply drew things at a position and size that felt right. Then adjusted them as the requirements demanded.
Nowadays with the complex intermediary of the computer, we can do far more complex things. But that simple guiding flow has been broken, and it shows terribly. Making things beautiful and visually "organic" has become much harder.
I actually remember when I first saw it in the early 1980s. A shopping mall in my area had been refurbished, and I was stunned (in a bad way). The interior looked like a computer graphic (and back in those days, that was pretty simplistic). They had tried to incorporate "design" elements to make it visually interesting, but the overall effect was to make it look like it was built out of Legos.
I don't think architectural design has ever recovered, and I think the bull-nosed things they call cars today look heavy and mean. But who knows, maybe soon a method of creating things on the computer that is as intuitive as the pencil will be invented (don't say the stylus, it is a perfectly good input device, but until CAD software can make shapes from stylus sketches, it doesn't count. It is the method that needs to be invented, not the device).
As an Architect, who studied Engineering, Product Design, Advertising Design, Publication Design, Landscape design and Urban Design, I must suggest that Design is such a huge word that few grasp it in total.
There is a very high percentage of Engineers, who may be good designers in their field who have absolutely no clue as to architecture at all. It's almost shameful from my perspective.
Steve Jobs did, though because as a very young man he hung around some Calligraphy Classes and learned to appreciate Design Excellence.
Woz, on the other hand sure could design a circuit and he even could conceive the desktop computer, but the Apple II really was incompetent looking and that is why IBM whipped them. No, Gates had nothing to do with that.
And this is the second time that I have enjoyed reading Prof. Petroski's writings and observations. If I read his writings correctly he enjoyed that book very much.
So it is clear to me that the designers were perfectly in control of what they were doing... a smart bunch or a smart person. They grabbed his attention and he relayed it to us in some detail revealing his reactions. No Bean Counters vs Car Guys here.
For many the word design implies an esthetic sense... pleasure, ease, happyness. To many engineers this is something to be ignored as if they are religious zealots eschewing pleasure. Certainly not this Professor so that is a joy to me.
Now I like the close kerning on the word Design in Design News but wonder why it was not done on the word News. For me this is a goose/gander continuity thing.
And in wanting to respond to the Professor I saw the word Comment below his name and when hitting it, I was pushed into the list of comments. Comments is the correct word to use in that case and the same is true of the word below his writings.
This offends my design sense. I did not wish to use the short route of hitting comment or reply below someone else's comment and hence be locked into a spiral of conversation with one person as just happened.
Architects tend to philosophize about Design. Some overly so but it is interesting and worthwhile.
Isn't it interesting that the main driving force in an automobile purchase is an esthetic one. The "Designers" do rule and very few of them ever studied engineering.
From your picture, I fear you're falling prey to the same experience related shortcoming the rest of us with grey hair are feeling, to a greater or lesser extent. :) Opticians rejoice, I'm sure.
Design has a value, in how it makes us feel, and how it allows us to use technology. That value is irrespective of the age... errr experience... of the user. Business week has shifted to a layout which flags the page number in the middle of the right hand side of the page, in bold color. Most helpful, if lacking in subtlety.
I agree, Naperlou. I, too, have long thought that Apple products were overpriced. Maybe it's my engineering sensibility talking here, but I've always thought that the genius of Steve Jobs was in marketing and industrial design, not in technology, as is so often claimed. Apple's products have a reputation for being easier to use and learn, and Apple has been positively brilliant in appealing to customers who want, and are willing to pay for, high-end products.
What you're describing here is an instance when the art or design department made decisions apart from the need for simple functionality. As a former publisher, I know that the art department -- a wonderful crew -- needs to be monitored. Their aesthetic decisions can quickly divert from the practical needs of the reader.
Henry, thank you.Now I know what dingbats are.I have seen them in listings of fonts, but I never really used them, or understood what their origin is.
I really appreciate your description of the subtleties of the design of the book.I have always liked such things, but I am becoming more used to electronic versions of books as time goes on.In the end, they are lighter (on one move my wife and I made we were informed that our books weighed 3,000 pounds).I do miss the tactile feel of the real books, though.Most readers put a book in a standard format with pages being decided by screen size.
As for your mention of Apple and design, I find it interesting.I have always looked on their products as being much too expensive and closed.Many years ago I was the CIO of an aerospace plant.We had a large proposal to do and the team (which I had previously worked for) decided to go around me to purchase a network of Macs to do the proposal on.They wanted to bypass our tech pubs group and do the page layout themselves.They spent $200K on equipment and overran the proposal budget by $400K.As you can imagine, there was an inquest and the program manager lost his job.The reason I mention this in the context of your article is that of design.What we ended up doing was having senior engineers doing something they had no training in.The page layout and design aspects of the proposal (which was thousands of pages) was awful.We were lucky that we had bought the competitor before the bidding process was over.By the way, it was a $1B project.
There really is an art to creating a book.Even in the most plain text only books you would see references to fonts used.These had a lot to do with readability and the feeling one gets from reading the book.
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A quick look into the merger of two powerhouse 3D printing OEMs and the new leader in rapid prototyping solutions, Stratasys. The industrial revolution is now led by 3D printing and engineers are given the opportunity to fully maximize their design capabilities, reduce their time-to-market and functionally test prototypes cheaper, faster and easier. Bruce Bradshaw, Director of Marketing in North America, will explore the large product offering and variety of materials that will help CAD designers articulate their product design with actual, physical prototypes. This broadcast will dive deep into technical information including application specific stories from real world customers and their experiences with 3D printing. 3D Printing is