Still Life by William Nicholson c. 1900
Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Value of Beauty

So what is beauty? Every civilization has a different standard or ideal of what beauty is. It is based on our history and our collective cultural experience. Moreover, within each culture, our tastes, likes and dislikes are unique to who we are. What I find beautiful, my wife or son may not.

As a designer, I find that one of the greatest challenges is to create beautiful objects, be they buildings, furnishings or graphic patterns that have a broad appeal and aesthetic longevity. After all, isn't one of the greenest approaches to design and manufacturing to create things of enduring relevance?

Detail of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling by Michelangelo c. 1520

Detail of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling by Michelangelo c. 1520

I think it's important that we all pause to take stock of what we find beautiful. Look around your home. What objects have you cherished for more than a few years? Is there a consistency to those things. What about your community? What are the structures that are preserved, restored or well maintained?

Designing a side table in my studio

Designing a side table in my studio

While beautiful things do not guarantee happiness, they add a texture of palpable vitality to our lives. And yet as Alain de Botton notes in his book, The Architecture of Happiness, “To care deeply about a field that achieves so little, and yet consumes so many of our resources, forces us to admit to a disturbing, even degrading lack of aspiration.” Yet given the seemingly folly character of aesthetics, we are driven to continuously appreciate, and even rival the beauty that nature surrounds us with.

I’m not sure what constantly drives me to want to make beautiful things. All I know is that I am driven. I hope that the work I create is met with eyes that appreciate my personal interpretation of beauty, and derive pleasure in doing so.