Backgrounds | 04.03.2022 |

Design has to work. Art does not. Why, actually?

Or: Why do we pack a round pizza in a square box and then cut it into many triangular shapes?

The answer to this question can be found in the production and processing: The pizza dough is easiest to roll out into a round shape as a ball. In the hands of an experienced pizza maker, the shape is created by the centrifugal forces alone, which unfold their effect as soon as the dough is artfully rotated in the air. For the production of the cartons and the subsequent stacking and packaging, the square shape of the carton proves to be the most useful. The triangular shape of the pizza pieces is created by the practical cutting with the pizza roller. Ideally, a crispy edge is also created during baking, which makes the triangular piece easier to grip.

So the answer to the question about the shapes is not: “Because it’s beautiful.” Because the choice of shapes in the entire pizza process always have a functional background: the result of a craft process, an ecological advantage or the consequence of practical product processing. To put it simply: form follows function.

In the eye of the beholder.

Now, the pizza is not an accessory that we wear every day. Above all, we do not choose the shape of our jewellery or clothes because we can see a rational advantage behind it. We find them simply “beautiful” on the surface. Deeper down, however, the decision for aesthetics, beauty or form is a mixture of conscious and unconscious parameters for each person. So I can consciously decide on the shape of a jacket because I saw it on another wearer yesterday and thought it was good. However, it can be seen as an unconscious decision criterion why I find exactly this shape in the colour red an attractive purchase. Maybe I’m an extrovert who likes to show off my positive attitude to life by wearing an offensive colour. Or maybe my jacket turns out to be a kind of plumage with which I want to attract the attention of a potential partner. Whether consciously or unconsciously, it always remains a personal decision. Nevertheless, we are all subject to external and internal influences in our decision-making processes beforehand. These could be:

  • Cultural influences – Example: The colour red does not have the same meaning in every cultural environment.
  • Social influences – Example: The girlfriend / boyfriend really liked the colour on me.
  • Current trends and the collective aesthetic consciousness – example: red sneakers are currently being pushed by the fashion industry because the subculture has rediscovered them in advance. Since many people wear them, it moves forward into the collective aesthetic consciousness: red sneakers that I didn’t like at all before, I can suddenly imagine myself wearing and in my social environment.
  • Group or genre affiliation – Example: As a heavy metal fan, I naturally never wear a red T-shirt.
  • Personal decisions that come out due to personality development – examples: “Red clothes have never suited me.” “I need a change!” “I used to wear a red shirt more often. Everything was better then.”

Examine purpose and benefit.

If we now transfer the selection criteria for form and colour to the work on the brand, we must realise that all the points described above must be taken into account. Design as an identity-forming element determines how we perceive the brand, what story it tells and whether it can find a place in our everyday lives. A strategic foundation that critically examines and evaluates cultural affiliation, social currents, current trends and the collective aesthetic consciousness of the masses therefore forms the basis for every brand development. The results subsequently determine the visual appearance. The perception of a brand must therefore be controlled as far as possible. Personal preferences for colours and shapes must always be examined for purpose and benefit. If a current trend does not fit into the holistic communication, it must not be used in the visual story of the brand – no matter how “beautiful” it is. The development of communicative design and focused storytelling must therefore always be based on rationally developed frameworks or, in the best case, on evidence. Last but not least, a pinch of personal experience and gut feeling should not be underestimated.

But how do we make it so that aesthetics can be measured? The answer is: by letting the people around the brand or the company have their say. By involving key stakeholders before or during the process, most of the hurdles in concept development can be overcome in advance. Through iterative user/customer surveys, brand communication can be adapted and improved. People are still able to identify with the brand’s story because it communicates with people at eye level.

“Design has to work. Art does not.”
– Donald Judd


Art does what it wants, design wants what it does. Every shape and colour speaks or promises. Aesthetics in the context of strategic brand communication must only ever be a means to an end. A tool that supports the brand and its story and charges it with emotion whenever contact with the user, viewer or customer demands it. Of course, design must be able to do more than just function. It must inspire, live, dazzle, shout, embrace. But strategic brand management demands more.

Projekt zur Story: Ruhr trifft Herz. Schwerte und Florida gestalten das neue Stadtmarketing.

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