Monthly Archives: July 2012

I plan to investigate the debate regarding the question of “What is good design?” This question has been predominant throughout the history of design and is still a question that caused a lot of discussion.

I wish to explore more specifically on the constant conflict between ornament and form.

Ornament and decoration have been issue since the early 1800’s. For example Richard Redgrave’s essay “On Utility which must be considered before ornamentation” Which expressed his principles that utility must be the primarily concern for a designer, and that we must “ornament construction, not construct to ornament”

I want to investigate this long debate regarding the principles of design and why people feel this way towards ornamental design. I am aware some designers feel strongly about this for example Adolf Loos and his essay “Ornament is crime” written in 1908. Can ornament still be a crime over a century later?

Any crits or feedback? Or does anyone have any information that may be relevant to me?


So at the beginning of the month/end of term I said to myself that I would spend an hour on my dissertation a day. So far out of the 26 days I have only spent 13hours and 42minutes on it… behind by 12 hours and 18minutes… with only 5 days left – I have to do just under 3 hours a day… FAB.

I feel like I’m taking so long as 1. I’m pretty lazy… and with getting up at 3am to go work for 8 hours, make it pretty difficult to get the motivation at the end of the day to do one hour. 2.
I’ve really struggled (and still am) with defining and actually understanding what I want to write about.
Now I feel like I have sort of got some where. I think before I was too broad. So below is and outline of what I plan to look at now.

Paul Greenhalgh says
“Design refers to the beauty of the object, as much as to its function”
meaning that when talking about design, we are talking about it as a whole, not ever just the look or just the function. But I wish to look at these subjects, not separately, but more the extremes of the two.

Subject: Ornament/Decoration in graphic design.
– Investigating the arguments surrounding ornamentation and function (purpose)

Why: I question what good design is regularly as I want to make good work, perhaps even great work… but what is that? What makes design good? People readily say what good design isn’t e.g Comic Sans.

Its something that troubles me as a design student that the purpose of design seems to be just decoration… for the sake of it. I definitely feel that design is not about just looking “cool” or “trendy”.
This is not something new either, many designers have tried to decided what it is and what it isn’t.
There are many books, magazines and blog articles speaking of how to improve your design work. As well as categorising work.

The idea of aesthetics was a dominant subject during the 19th century. Designers wanted to put proper values on what was considered beautiful.
It is human nature to want to put things into categories and understand rules to why things are so.

If we are talking about truly good design, it is impossible as it does not exist. What we really want to talk about is the subject of taste and opinion. The opinions that I am interested in are in regards to decoration/ornamentation and functionalism/purpose. These subjects are two ends of a spectrum, with some middle ground. (The middle ground would probably be the Art Nouveau era… Victorian being the Decoration and Modern being the Functional.)

Throughout the victorian era there were many who disliked ornamentation (these are not quotes just summary of the quote);
Henry Cole – people are obsessed with ornamentation.
Richard Redgrave – Utility must be the first consideration.
Lewis F. Day – Ornament is the purpose to ornament. That is it.
Adolf loos – Cultural evolution means the removal of ornament.
Herbert Read – Ornament to Design is like tattoos to the body. They are something later added, therefor not needed nor to they add anything to make the body better.

So far I need to look closer into who appreciated it… William Morris did and the rest of the arts and craft movement.

Themes – Function, Ornament…..? Impact on society?

What I need to do next;
– Write first case study
– Get it checked
– Write 2nd case study
– Write 3rd case study
– Write analysis / conclusion
– Rewrite intro
– Rewrite Literary review

After the new areas of research I will look into;

The New Museology – Peter Vergo, Charles Saumarez Smith, Ludmilla Jordanova and Paul Greenhalgh  – All about museums and the items that are put in there and why and expanding on this idea of classification. Which also links to my “good design” as obviously the items in a museum for a reason, whether them being old, rare, good? valuable. So I think this book maybe good for my introduction and my book review, as that way it paves the way for the case studies.

Essential Art Nouveau – Paul Greenhalgh – Looking at Nouveau in a broad sense.

Art Nouveau 1890-1914 – Paul Greenhalgh – More in depth book about Nouveau.

Essential Modernism – Paul Greenhalgh – Looking at Modernism.

Modernism in Design (Critical Views) – Tim Benton, Gillian Naylor, Penny Sparke, Wendy Kaplan, Clive Wainwright, Martin Gaughan, Guy Julier, Mimi Wilms, Julian Holder and Paul Greenhalgh – Essays on various countries and pathways of design focusing on Modernism.

Regency Style – Steven Parissien – Looking at archetecure and design within this period between Georgian and Victorian eras

The Culture of History: English Uses of the Past 1800-1953 – Billie Melman – Talks about the traditional style in this time.

So obviously I will have to head to the British Library to find these books, But I think I will be about to piece together some general information and understanding about these eras before hand. I think I will have a look at Graphic Design: A Concise History (World of Art) by Richard Hollis  as this talks about design right from the beginning therefor I should get some pointers of what to look at from a graphic design perspective.

After feeling depressed about the whole dissertation thing, I emailed my context tutor to try and get some help. I am actually so pleased I have the tutor I have, as within half an hour and on a saturday he emailed me back with the following points;

You need to look at Paul Greenhalgh’s amazon page – He’s definitely written about all this kind of thing.

At the moment your case studies are a bit far apart. It will be better if you can position everything so that it is about the clash between functionality, minimalism and decoration… I would advise you to look at, say, the period after WW1.

Next steps

So now my inner critic has chilled out a bit I can now push on with more research into these specific areas. However its quite annoying as I done a lot of reading and then it wasn’t really needed. However it did egg me on towards something else, something more specific – Functionalism.

So I need to look into

  • modernism
  • functionalism
  • traditional

and compare these cases and talk about what was considered as “good design” within each era. As clearly a new design era started when the ideas of what was good/right/valuable changed.

Finally feel like I starting to understand what I want to talk about!

Look into each era.

Pick out key designers/groups/manifestos

Draw up similarities and differences between the eras.

And hopefully I will have all this done by Tuesday… A basic outline so that I can look more in depth to each design/group etc and start to construct quotes etc.

I hate writing.

Not even writing, I hate trying to write about something that there clearly seems no answer to.

While reading (William Morris – Hopes & Fears) I now feel like I am looking at the wrong things (AGAIN)  I feel like I need to go back to the start and try and figure out what I’m trying to say or research, argue whatever.

Most of the online Dissertation guides or tips/help pages keep talking about for / against and general arguments. However I don’t feel like my – What is good design – is particularly an argument, its more of an investigation. An investigation into – what is good design… use & value… something useful can be beautiful…

From what I have read so far I guess Morris does believe that useful is beautiful as he seems to use the words interchangeably…

I feel as though morris and loos are sort of on the same track… that it must have a purpose (USE) to be beautiful (VALUE). However, Morris feels that ornamentation and reflections on nature are what make something more so beautiful as it fits with nature where as loos thinks that you can do away with ornamentation therefor, ornamentation doesn’t really have a purpose other than to look nice?

Oh I don’t know. I think I will have to try write out my aims of this dissertation and get it completely clear in my mind what I am looking for then the reading / quotes / case studies will make more sense to me.

Found here

Title Page

The cover page of your graphic design dissertation should have the following aspects covered:

  • Dissertation title
  • Your name
  • Reasons to submit the dissertation
  • Your university’s and department’s name followed by month and year


This is the page where you thank and show your appreciation to the people who assisted you in writing your graphic design dissertation.


It is a summation of your graphic design dissertation. It is normally about 120 to 150 words. It should cover the following points:

  • Background of the topic
  • Aim of the study
  • Methods to conduct research
  • Results

Table of Contents

Mention all the sections and chapter and any other written work in form of a list with page numbers.


A graphic design dissertation introduction serves as the reason to establish context for research. It further provides information about the research question and ends with a clear hypothesis.

Literature Review

Literature review is an abstract of the published and accessible information pertaining to your graphic design dissertation topic. The information you select to review and analyze should come from trustworthy and authentic sources. It is important since it makes you aware of the conducted research and helps you stay focused to find out new angles to look at your own graphic design dissertation.


In your graphic design dissertation it is a crucial chapter. In this part you will have to explain how the research of the study will be carried out. You also have to tell about the relevance and significance of choosing the methods.


Now you have to present the results of the evaluation of the data you collected with appropriate and related statistical account of the raw data. Be careful about your personal opinions. You should not include your opinion in results section. It is done in discussion part.


In the discussion part of your graphic design dissertation, you have to discuss and evaluate the findings obtained as the result of research in context of existing and accessible literature. Here the discussion is centred to the research question to prove it correct. It is not necessary that the research question is approved, it might be rejected.


As the result of all the research findings and their analysis, you come up with further suggestions for future work and further improvement in the field.


List all the information sources.


Appendices include graphs, tables, figures, interviews, questionnaires, summaries of your survey, and statistical results which will not be counted in the actual word count of your research.


  • Use
  • Value
  • Beauty

All evidence for case studies must refer back to each of these themes ( 1 piece of evidence relevant to each theme per case study e.g 3 quotes, one on use, one on value and one of beauty – around 300 words per theme)

Case study 1 – William Morris

  • William Morris on Art & Design
  • Hopes and Fears for Art
  • Signs of Change

Case study 2 – Adolf Loos

  • Ornament and Crime
  • Theory & Works
  • Design & Crome (and other Diatribes)

Case study 3 – Design Council

The Design council list may change due to this being the only case study I have not done any previous research for.

Next steps – 

  • Start reading William Morris’s books
  • Start collecting quotes
  • Write down rough outline of case study

Repeat for each case study – Obviously do more research before writing up case study 3.