Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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That’s Not Really [INSERT ART FORM HERE]

By Noah Brier and Charles Gallant

Rock and roll is not music. How could it be? You’ve got a bunch of kids with shaggy hair playing instruments with no real musical knowledge. They don’t even know scales! Hell, most of them probably can’t read music! They’re making noise, not music.

Or so the story goes.

Now let’s try it from the design perspective:

The consequence of your design democracy is an ugly spectacle of deep purples and electric organges. It’s a culture of me-me-me: my hideously personalized car, my hideously personalized sofa, my hideously personalized house. If we care about maintaining an aesthetic of public space, design should be left to professionals. Let people pour their uniqueness inwardly — but don’t let them clutter up the physical world.

That’s straight out of Fast Company.

Pardon my French, but it all sounds like a bunch of elitist bullshit. Today everyone’s got access to the tools that before only a select few could play with. Anyone can be a designer, a musician or an astronaut.

That scares and angers professionals.

Think about it. How would you feel if you went through four years of intense musical training and the people getting the fame and money spent all that time smoking pot and drinking Jack Daniels.

There’s never been a time in history when it was easier to just hack something together. (I think that’s paraphrasing something Henry Jenkins said.) Calling design ‘bad’ or music ‘crappy’ is a subjective judgement. ‘Bad’ design can be good. Just look at the filmmakers behind lonelygirl15: When it was time to build a Myspace page for their faux-15-year-old they intentionally gave it a ‘Myspace’ look. They knew their context and built something that could really have been produced by a 15-year-old girl in her bedroom.

The design represents the content. It presents the content. It is the content. If I’m a 9-year-old with a ‘crappy’ website, my design will probably scream “A 9-year-Old made this!!!” What those pompous musicians/designers need to get over is that some people are actually looking for a 9-year-old’s content. They’d prefer a universe where people wanted things that looked pretty, but sometimes people just want something that ‘is what it is.’ Something accessible. Something that’s all there on the table. Easy to swallow.

Design is a communication tool. Getting your point across should always be the ultimate goal. Sure I can make comments on the how much something adheres to traditional design rules. But at the end of the day it sure sounds like a bunch of classically trained musicians with their tux stuck up their ass complaining about the kids and their rock and roll.

October 6, 2006