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Heavenly Virtues of Good Design

Wayne McMaster

27 June 2013

Good design that is well conceived and well executed can make the world a better, more interesting place. Good design can enhance our lives and elevate our spirits. Good design should be seen a combination of both languages of VIRTUE and BEAUTY.

Heavenly Virtues

We will all be familiar with the seven deadly sins Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Laziness, Vanity, Jealousy and Anger that were recognised by the Roman Catholic Church, and can recognise these human vices in bad design—designs that exhibit laziness, wastefulness, that are ill-proportioned, or dishonest. To counter those earthly vices there are the heavenly virtues of Chastity–Courage or Boldness, Abstinence—Moderation or Self-control, Liberality—Generosity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, Humility. It is these same heavenly virtues that we see in good design, translated into bold courageous designs, that exhibit honesty, authenticity, simplicity, sustainability.

& Beauty

Back in the early 1980s, Dieter Rams (above) was becoming increasingly concerned by the state of the world around him – “an impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises.” Aware that he was a significant contributor to that world, he asked himself an important question: is my design good design? His third of ten principles on Good design was:

No.3 Good design is aesthetic

The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

Thomas Aquinas said (in translation) beauty requires three qualities: INTEGRITY—the quality of standing out from the background; HARMONY—how the parts relate to the whole; and RADIANCE—the pleasure to which we feel when we experience it. And as Marty Neumeier refers in his book The Designful Company, the language of beauty according to Aristotle is Aesthetics.

Much can be written on what Good Design is beyond this post's focus on ethics and aesthetics.

Deiter Rams is a great place to start:

Beyond good design there is great design:
Huffington Post article 27/6/2013

Companies that use design well understand and use desires to sell goods and services that they believe will benefit their consumers’ lives. - See more at:
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