Frank Gehry, part 2

I am notorious, at least within my family, for being several weeks behind on my New Yorker reading. Ever since my wife got a subscription as a gift a few years ago, I’ve felt compelled to read each issue, in order, cover to cover. Granted, I skip some of the “boring” articles, but even those I thought I would have no interest in have the tendency to draw me in.

I just finished the October 16th issue, and near the end there’s a review of two new Frank Gehry buildings in New York. I few months ago I watched the Frank Gehry documentary on PBS and found it quite inspiring, and this review has a couple nuggets that continue my fascination with Gehry.

“…Gehry, who, for all his experimentation, is always more interested in emotional impact than in architectural dogma.”

In the digital creative industry, I see this as well. Designers and developers are always looking to experiment with new ideas, but the true communication happens when these new ideas create an emotional impact.

“…there is no space so oddly shaped that you can’t work in it. People talk about the theatrics of Gehry’s architecture, but he has an intuitive sense of when to express himself audaciously and when to be quiet.”

This is exactly how we should approach digital creative. Try new things, express new ideas, and strive to make meaning. But through all this expression, people should be able to accomplish tasks. It doesn’t have to be the same convention every time; convention is fundamentally wrong. The concept of accomplishing tasks and “creating a familiar interface language” doesn’t overwrite the ability to do things differently and try new approaches. It can be theatrical (if theatrical is appropriate), but don’t forget that people are there to accomplish their own goals. They will infer meaning on audacity in a positive or negative way if this audacity helps or hinders them from reaching their goals.

Do something different. But remember why you’re making it different. If you lose the reason, then audacity is simply theatrics without meaning.

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