Many designers naturally have preferences and principles within their design practice. These personal principles come from their appreciation or dislike towards various influences, whether that be culturally or socially. The personal preferences and principles between designers differ, therefore provoking the debate “What is good design?”
The terms “good” and “design” are quite ambiguous when used together, hence causing a wide range of debate throughout the history of design which is still present today. The topic of good design seems to be indefinite due to the difficulty of deciding where the limitations are, as there are various factors that could constitute as elements of design. For that reason I wish to explore more specifically the constant conflict between ornament and form.
This inquiry is based on the hypothesis that ornamentation has no purpose in modern design. Ornament and decoration has been an issue since the early 1800’s. For example, Richard Redgrave’s essay “Utility which must be considered before ornamentation” expresses Redgrave’s anxiety that utility had not been the primary concern for the designer. A key essay that propelled these issues was Adolf Loos and his essay “Ornament is crime” written in 1908.
The aim of this dissertation is to discuss the demise of ornamentation and the continuous conflict between ornament and form in graphic design. It will also explore the reasons to why designers feel that ornament has no purpose. This conversation will not conclude in a manual of good design principles, neither is it a promotion or protest against the use of ornamentation within design.