“On beauty” - Andrea Resmini & Eric Reiss at EuroIA

 by Martin Belam, 29 September 2012

Not since Joe Muggs turned up at London IA and started talking about “Dancing to architecture” have I faced a session as unbloggable as that delivered last night at EuroIA by Andrea Resmini and Eric Reiss. Taking turns to accompany each other on the piano, silent-movie style, they delivered a visual essay on the nature of beauty and what IAs should do about it - which doesn’t really work without either the visuals or the soundtrack. In fact, I did consider whether I needed to embed some auto-playing WAV or MIDI file into this page.

Their premise - such as I understood it - was that Marcus Vitruvius Pollio had set the standard for architectural beauty, based on the proportions of the human body, in classical Roman times, but the loss of his book De Architectura contributed to the darker ages of European history. The rediscovery of these truths by the Franks sparked a renaissance in European design and appreciation of aesthetics.

They were concerned that we might be living through a similar dark age, where the values of usability, ease of use, and familiarity have trumped the idea of beauty in digital and real world services. Eric showed pictures of various clothes stores like Gap and H&M who have all adopted a very similar style. It may be effective for selling clothes, was Eric’s point, but if you took away the branding above the door, none of the stores have any personality or individuality remaining. The same is true of their websites.

Eric stressed that “design patterns” were not “designs” by showing silhouettes of classical architecture contrasted with modern cities, which illustrated that though the fundamental design pattern under-pinning them was the same, the content was very different. A series of images of water jugs manufactured over a period of forty or so years showed how design and personality could be very different, whilst functionality and the overall pattern were maintained.

There was then a slight detour whilst Eric pointed out that Jessica Biel’s fingernails matched her shoes, a fact that had been over-looked by a fashion editor, who just thought they looked “nice”, whereas the innate pattern-matching genes of the IA would have spotted the connection instantly.

The pair wondered if web design today is not in the same place that car design was in the 1910s. The basic pattern was established, but lots of things that we now consider to be very important in the design of a car - safety features, fuel consumption - were not factors that interested the industry or consumers at all. What are the equivalent things that we will worry about digital services in the future, that just aren’t on our radar now?

Erm...I think that was it, anyway. As I said, unbloggable.

EuroIA Rome 2012

EuroIA Rome 2012
by Martin Belam
All of my notes from the 2012 EuroIA conference in one ebook, featuring coverage of talks by Gerry McGovern, Peter J. Bogaards, Andrea Resmini, Eric Reiss, Jim Kalbach, Carola Weller, Sara Wachter-Boettcher and Stephen P. Anderson
Available free for iBooks, for Kindle, and as a PDF


I’ve got some more notes from yesterday’s sessions which I haven’t written up yet, so hopefully they will appear during the day, alongside an essay version of my talk, and some notes from the other sessions I attend.

This is one of a series of blog posts about the talks I saw at EuroIA 2012 in Rome. You can download the whole lot in an ebook for iBooks, for Kindle or as a PDF

“The dirty magnet” - Gerry McGovern
“Helping businesses to tackle a ‘wicked problem’” - Peter J. Bogaards
“Process & People” - Birgit Geiberger & Peter Boersma
“An agronomist’s unexpected path to UX Design” - Raffaella Roviglioni
“Responsive IA: IA in the touchscreen era” - Martin Belam
“‘Stupid bloody system!’: Bad IA in the workplace” - Jonas Söderström
“On beauty” - Andrea Resmini & Eric Reiss
“RITE: Testing and a business driver” - Jim Kalbach & Carola Weller
Building a coupon app for iPhone - Hermann Hofstetter & Gregor Urech
“Micro IA and content that travels” - Sara Wachter-Boettcher
“What am I curious about?” - Stephen P. Anderson

You can also download all my notes from the previous EuroIA in Prague as one PDF or as an ePub document.

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