There are only a handful of reality TV shows that I watch, and one of my favorites is Project Runway. After watching many seasons of it, including the All-Stars ones, I noticed an interesting quirk among certain designers.
Fashion is something that has always eluded me. In high school I ran with a kind of “alternative” crowd. It started with grunge, and then moved to skateboarding and punk rock. The ethos of both of these subcultures was anti-establishment. We didn’t care what the rest of society thought of us, we were doing our own thing. Of course the irony was that in order to belong, one had to look and dress a certain way.
Those years in my life ingrained in my mind a feeling that clothes shouldn’t matter, and a person shouldn’t care what they dressed like. It was vain to care about such things. Society cared about what it looked like, and to not care was somehow above it.
Fast forward several years, and I find myself in a profession where aesthetic consideration is a huge portion of my life. We designers can talk all we want about usability and problem solving, but it isn’t a coincidence that great design also tends to look beautiful.
Every season of Project Runway seems to have a designer that is a bit out there. Maybe they have crazy hair, piercings, or clothes that are eccentric. It would be expected for a fashion designer to push the envelope some, but these designers stand out even among their peers.
The problems occur when these designers start getting challenges, and their work doesn’t sit well with the judges. Sometimes it takes a few shows, but when a pattern starts to emerge, one judge will inevitably comment, “Why can’t you make your model look as interesting as you do?”
This thought has been creeping around the back of my head for some time.
In the world of fashion, a designer’s look is a reflection of their ideas about clothes. It is a reflection of their aesthetic. My thought is, why should that consideration stop in the fashion world? Isn’t my product, my design, my aesthetic, also reflected in my manner of dress?
If my job is to create the visual, then that thought process would no doubt extend into my taste level for all things, especially clothes.
In considering this, my mind turns first to the artist. Paint spattered clothes and mussed up hair, but producing powerful and thought provoking imagery. He doesn’t care what the world sees on the outside of his person, only the product of his mind, his art. So maybe fashion shouldn’t matter? Am I an artist?
Then there is the genius designer. Steve Jobs became known for wearing a certain shirt, pant, and shoe to every Apple keynote. Several fashion designers have also become known to wear a kind of uniform while out in public, a very specific combination of items that they are rarely seen without. It has been said that these types make decisions all day, so eliminating one gives their brain more power to focus on their primary task. Does that work? Do I aspire to be a genius designer?
Where do I fall on this spectrum?
Any creative juice I have should be aimed squarely at the project in front of me, this is true. On the other hand, the more open my mind is to the world, the more likely I am to find inspiration there. If I work to refine my level of taste, then wouldn’t that consideration naturally extend to my primary pursuit?
Talk to pretty much any graphic designer, and they will tell you that design is everywhere. While a large part of this is ego-driven, there is truth to that statement. Design is anything that has a mind in it. It’s the font for the header, but also the way a t-shirt fits around the waist. Color, texture, and contrast are design considerations that do not stop at the screen, they are universal.
Therefore, I have decided to start giving this area of my life more thought. As with any endeavor, it will take time. It starts with research and experimentation, but mostly it just takes work. Step one is paying attention, and thankfully I’ve already started.