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All This Useless Beauty: The Case for Craft Practice in Design For a Digital Age

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This paper draws on practice-centred research combining craft practice and digital technology to illuminate the role of beauty in facilitating the engagement with digital complexity. In a climate where digital technology is increasingly prominent in our everyday lives, the role of beauty is seen frequently as an extravagance. As digital technologies extend their reach, the power we have to change and expand our potential for engagement with technology grows accordingly. To regard beauty as a stylistic afterthought is a flawed strategy.

The phenomenon of human-digital technology interaction raises the potential for captivation, enchantment and fascination or frustration, distrust and doubt. Here we explore the ways beauty can create accessibility to the complexities inherent in much technology, referring to examples from the applied arts. We state the case for the relevance of craft to the design of digital systems and three-dimensional digital devices focusing on the role of research and method in this process. We define beauty in this context as a form of enchantment, drawing from perspectives from philosophy, human-computer interaction and the applied arts. This paper is based on research which illustrates the role of beauty and enchantment in the conception of digital jewellery, how people respond to enchantment and beauty, and how this acts as a key to a personally meaningful engagement with digital technology. Personal subjectivity and criteria for beauty are explored and responded to through the process of making objects which aim to enchant and linking this to an equally significant mode of communication. The results present a reflective view of the role of beauty and craft knowledge in the conception and design of digital devices and interfaces.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/146069204789354417

Publication date: July 1, 2004

More about this publication?
  • Established in 1998, The Design Journal is an international, refereed journal covering all aspects of design. The journal welcomes articles on design in both cultural and commercial contexts. The journal is published four times a year and provides a forum for design scholars, professionals, educators, and managers worldwide. It publishes thought-provoking work that will have a direct impact on design knowledge and that challenges assumptions and methods, while being open-minded about the evolving role of design.
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