Why Beauty Is Important

You never had to convince me of this, I have always had a fascination of the visual and of art. Today, though, I happened across some blogs and their posts gave some real insight into our need for beauty.

A newer blog that is listed in the top 100 technorati blogs, Creating Passionate Users deserves its popularity. Kathy Sierra asked Does the US suck at design? and compares stuff, but what really got me thinking was the post linked @ Gadgetopia, ‘Why Beautiful Things Work Better’.

Quoted inside the post are excerpts of Don Norman’s book, ‘Emotional Design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things’. Some intriguing stuff there.

Here are a few of the things that hit me:

“When you feel good, Isen discovered, you are better at brainstorming, at examining multiple alternatives. ”
…”We have long known that when people are anxious they tend to narrow their thought processes, concentrating upon aspects directly relevant to a problem. This is a useful strategy in escaping from danger, but not in thinking of imaginative new approaches to a problem. Isen’s results show that when people are relaxed and happy, their thought processes expand, becoming more creative, more imaginative.

These — and related — findings suggest the role of aesthetics in product design: attractive things make people feel good, which in turn makes them think more creatively. How does that make something easier to use? Simple, by making it easier for people to find solutions to the problems they encounter.”

Now there is an elegant dovetail of why beauty and usibility are the right hand and left hand and not competing adversaries. Who said they were? It’s often assumed in many things, but maybe I’m just speaking as an American. That returns me to that original post of Kathy Sierra’s. Somehow we have gotten the idea that beauty doesn’t matter when we mean business, or that excellence doesn’t matter- because often beauty and excellence are tied. I don’t know how often I have seen this, but it is worse among Evangelical Christians in America. It becomes almost a virtue to be ugly and commonplace. I think that is where so many decry the state of the arts ( ahem, meant to say that) in our circles.

But if we could just “get it”, that beauty actually is a part of efficacy and ,more, of the whole creation process as it functions in humanity…. maybe we would pay more attention to including it in the works we put our hand to. Maybe we would see beauty, and its inclusion in life as something that gives glory to God.

We would just plain add something of value to the world around us.

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