At the moment I am occupied with the thought of creating a model for an aesthetic strategy. A way of organizing a design process around e.g. the following questions: What kind of aesthetic experience do you want your receiver to attain? Do you want your receiver to experience instant “payoff” (and thereby to be able to decode the purpose and structure of the object or concept instantaneously), or would you like your work to be a (more or less) challenging encounter; an encounter with a prolonged “payoff”? And, not to forget; why? What is the strategy behind your thoughts?
Basically I think that you can work with planning the aesthetic experience as a part of the design process. And I think doing so makes a lot of sense; I view strong aesthetics as a competitive parameter of the future. However this demands quite a few initial considerations, as well as a thorough knowledge of your target group. How far can you go (keeping your receiver’s assumptions and values in mind)? What does it take to move, persuade and (or) challenge the person you are trying to reach? What does he/ she take for granted, and thereby expect, when perceiving the world?
The most basic decision – and the initial step of an aesthetic strategy – is, in my eyes, deciding whether you want to support your the receiver’s expectations or challenge them. Reflections on why either challenging or supporting expectations is the right strategy for you are of great importance too; not the least because it will increase your ability to put words on design related decisions when conceptualizing your work.
There are many culturally and Zeitgeist related assumptions that control what we expect when experiencing and perceiving our surroundings and when making consumer-decisions; e.g. assumptions about what clothes are, and how you, via clothes, signal femininity or masculinity, assumptions about what furniture is, and how heavy or light, soft or hard a chair should be, and assumptions about what a book is, and how you read it. It doesn’t take that much to shake up these kind of fundamental assumptions.
Making up your mind, as an initial part of a design process, whether you are aiming to challenge or support assumptions is a strategy that could make conceptual and design related choices easier.
An insight in your time’s common values or attitudes can give you a lot of direction in the design process; are you aiming to work with or against the tendencies (and why?!). And a knowledge of the tendencies of our time is crucial. But on top of this you need to dive into an understanding of your specific target group’s expectations and habitus. You need this understanding to control your receiver’s connotations and in order to either prolong the “payoff time”or to create an “instant payoff” experience.
Another relevant question could be: Do you want your design to contain a volatile expression – or are you concerned with aesthetic sustainability, durability?
I will be writing more on the progress of these thoughts in a later post; about setting up parameters for creating a strategy to tailor the aesthetic experience. Next step is to put words on combining the initial considerations on payoff and receiver assumptions with idea generation and sketching. And to layout the model for the aesthetic strategy.