16 April 2011
music & design
whenever i think of music, it strikes me how well defined it is. music is intangible yet there's a very clear way of describing it, writing it and reading it that transcends languages and cultures. a lot of times i wished that design had a similar way of describing it. just as a musician or composer can write down and communicate harmonies, scales, orchestrations, a designer could communicate flow, balance, function, experience. yes, designers can specify materials, geometry, assembly methods... but design is so much more than that... there's a big component of design (perhaps the most important) that does with meaning and experience that is not quantitative but qualitative... musicians are able to combine quantitative musical notation with qualitative expression but i don't think designers are as effective at this.
i've often imagined a system where you can connect design values to music values... you would know that materials in a product tend to reflect harmonies; types of surfaces and parting lines connect with melody; scale and flow reflect rhythm and lyrics. so if someone tells you that they like johnny cash, for example, you could take that music and use it to create products that would integrate the same values and therefore be popular with country-rock music fans. i think this idea can work... yet i've never been able to develop this concept... other projects always get in the way. a few years ago i read an article in new yorker magazine that described a similar concept. it described how this company called "mediapredict" would analyze trend patterns from one area/industry and use them to predict the potential success of a product in another category. for example, the potential success of an upcoming book could be predicted by comparing it to the current trends seen in top 40 hits... i wonder what type of decisions made the designers of 'monster beats' say: yeah, these headphones look like dr. dre.