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September 21, 2011 / Kuan

Spider Webs and Useless Perfection

Poster for Musée d'Orsay in 1986 by Bruno Monguzzi

“Swiss design is as perfect as any spider web. But it’s a useless perfection. The spider web is useful only when broken by the entangled fly.”

The quote was told by Bruno Monguzzi, the infamous Swiss graphic designer, typographer, teacher and design philosopher, at AIGA/NY‘s event tonight. It was the single most important lesson, Monguzzi said, he learned from Antonio Boggeri, founder of one of the most important Italian design firm Studio Boggeri.

Much of Monguzzi’s talk tonight was centered around this idea of “useless perfection.” Or, in other words, form. As words are substitutes of meaning, work of graphic design are substitutes of messages.

Sounds abstract, but sort of getting it? Here is an example:

Audi Zero concept

Vintage car. Photo from http://www.fegovi.com/

One is a concept, the other a vintage. Two unmistakably different styles, but one object — car. The fashion in which those two vehicles dress does not alter the nature of the product, only the perception of it. “The how defines the what,” as Monguzzi puts. Similarly, we as graphic designers can’t alter the nature of a message, but how our audience respond to it.

That puts tremendous pressure on us, as you could imagine, since any form of communication is merely the communicator’s subjective understanding of the matter. There is certainly no single style of doing it right, but a method — putting content over form. (Remember the entangled fly?)

Monguzzi told the audience to “disobey to trends” and “to add pages to the dictionary of visual communication, instead of tearing ones out.” And perhaps more importantly, “new design comes from new problem.”

His answer to the request for a book recommendation from one audience member.

Problems arise from life, so live like a human being first, he said in the closing marks, then you can become a designer.

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One Comment

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  1. Javont Armbrustv / Jul 26 2012 12:55 pm

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