Join Sue Jenkins for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding aesthetics, part of Design Aesthetics for Web Design (2013).
What is aesthetics? Why should it be important to you as a web designer? In this lesson we'll explore these questions and discover some reasons why paying attention to aesthetics is important for good design. In general terms, aesthetics is an area in philosophy in which practitioners study beauty as it relates to art. Plato first spoke of the pleasure brought on about by the quality of beauty. Later, Aristotle furthered the idea that it was the function of art to create an experience of pleasure in the viewer.
Based on a Greek word that referred to sense perception, the term aesthetics was coined in the 1730s by a philosopher named Alexander Baumgarten. He also introduced the concept of taste, whereby one judges the beauty of an object by one's senses. That is, their sight, their sound, touch, taste, and smell. So what makes a thing beautiful? Can we disagree about beauty? Could then, beauty be objective? Well, yes and no.
Many might agree that some things say, like the Mona Lisa, are irrefutably beautiful. There can be a historical, contextual, and subjective component to what is considered beautiful In the 1870s, Immanuel Kant revised the concept of aesthetics as the subjective means by which one can judge and appreciate beauty. He further stated that beauty is subjective, it can shift over time, and it is dependent on context. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, beauty is the quality in a thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.
In other words, beauty arises when qualities like color, form, and shape are combined in a way that pleases the aesthetic senses and the intellect. However, if beauty is subjective, and can shift over time, and is dependent on context, Can a work of art or design be considered beautiful today, and then not beautiful in 100 years? Aesthetics as it relates to graphic design in the 21st century, has come to refer to the visual attractiveness and cohesiveness of work.
Which usually means utilizing one or more of the elements and principles of design, which we'll discuss later. Good design communicates more than words, good designs communicate a mood or a feel that goes beyond the content in the design. So, why should you pay attention to aesthetics as a web designer? Because today, especially with the prevalence of the internet and touch enabled devices like tablets and smart phones, design aesthetics is moving beyond the visual to include other senses like hearing and touch.
Designs for the web should be fluid to adapt to a variety of devices which requires more thought and attention to detail than a static design used for print. In design, as with the fine art and marketing, first impressions are vital. In fact, they matter so much that the beauty or aesthetics of a design can make the difference between a positive and negative brand association. Good design can produce positive feelings about a product or service. Think about your own preferences as a consumer.
The visual appeal of a particular design is often immediate and unconscious, and can be just as important as a non-visual quality of a product or service like price or durability. I can't legally show you examples of bad web design without first getting permission from the creator, which admittedly, would be difficult for the bad examples. I'm sure you've seen in your own Internet travels examples of sites that blow you away with their beauty and their creativity. And you've probably also seen many other sites that are simply awful to look at and leave you wondering how in the world the person who designed it can seriously call themselves a web designer at all.
As a web designer you have a responsibility to create good designs for your audience. Design influences everything, and we can find examples of it everywhere we look. We see design in our furniture, electronic equipment, in our food packaging, our transportation, our clothing, our architecture, and our technology. We experience design at every turn, at sporting events, in the supermarket, on billboards, at the mall, our TVs, computers, touchpads, and on our smartphones. So, look around you.
Get inspired. Good design is everywhere if you look for it. As you work through this course, you'll be introduced to new concepts that can help you improve the aesthetic qualities of your web designs.
- Understanding aesthetics
- Picking harmonious colors
- Structuring your layout
- Using space to organize your design
- Communicating with the right fonts
- Aligning objects to achieve balance
- Adding movement with scrolling and animation
- Achieving proportion by scaling objects and text
- Creating CSS for different devices