Push or Pull. Open or Close. Who knows…

‘The thing is, designers, should not make things work in the way they want it to work, but rather in the way human beings work’(1)

Have you found yourself in a lift, or even just trying to get yourself through a door and just got it wrong? The awkwardly painful moment when you push instead of pull. Or when you intend to hold the lift doors open for somebody, only to accidentally press the wrong button and close the door in their face. It happens all the time. It is worth considering at what point does the universality of design triumph the way we need things to work? How many things are as they are because that is the way they have always been.

Have our designed systems become so refined that they are no longer effective nor functional for everyone using them? Past designers such as Charlotte Perriand firmly respected the notion that form follows function. A modernist movement that placed the importance on function as the fundamental influencer of form. Perriand expressed this in an article that ‘the extension of the art of dwelling is the art of living’(2). It feels relevant to consider this as we continue to adapt and simplify, reducing the visual aspects of design. We must find a happy medium that marries the visual experience of design with the comprehension and the experience of using it. We must acknowledge that through continual refinement and in the application of historic design conventions, we are at risk of losing or displacing the intended function of our designs.

As designers, we should always take the opportunity to design better. We must learn to adapt, refine and evolve. The situation in the lift simply should not happen. Instead, we could reconsider what has been and replace it with what could be. Design that seeks to better our collective experience. Good design does not always need to be stripped of its visual aspects. It does not necessarily need to be minimal. It must work seamlessly and beautifully. 

(1) Rabida, K. and Rabida, K., 2021. Push or Pull? Norman Doors and Designing for Humans. [online] UCreative.com. (https://www.ucreative.com/articles/push-or-pull-norman-doors-and-designing-for-humans/)

(2) Perriand, C (1981), L’Art de Vivre (the art of living), The Tate, UK (https://www.thelondonlist.com/culture/charlotte-perriand)

Article written by Valentine Interiors & Design