Back when I worked at Ovando in NYC one of the first things my boss and the owner of the company, Sandra De Ovando used to tell me was this, “Alex, everything you make for Ovando must be beautiful. Not cool, or different or unique. Beautiful.” Now you should go back and read that statement again in a thick spanish accent to get the full effect.
It’s not that she didn’t want me to make cool, different and unique designs but more that she wanted the primary focus of every design to be beauty.
Many of us millennials (born btw 1979-2000) were taught growing up that we were all unique little snowflakes and that being or doing something that no one else was doing was just the best thing ever. Be bold! Color outside the lines!
Well, when it comes to design beauty is far more important than uniqueness. After all, it’s not really that hard to come up with something that is unique and never before done. What is far more difficult is coming up with something unique and making it so beautiful that hardly anyone notices how different it is, instead they are preoccupied with the beauty of it and only later realize that they have never seen anything like it before.
For example, take a look at the following:
This design first strikes you as just beautiful. It’s so simple and uncomplicated, yet luxurious and absolutely gorgeous. It’s not a complete over haul of the concept of a centerpiece. You’re first thought isn’t “wow, never seen that before”. Only later does it occur to you that you’ve never seen anything like this before.
Now here is an example of a design in which the bold, creative idea was placed at a higher premium than the simple beauty of it. Despite the embarrassment to myself I’m taking an example out of my own early work. Hey, they can’t all be masterpieces, especially in the beginning.
This was a launch party for a new line of sneakers at Reebok. The client wanted the shoe to be displayed on the table.
I still like the concept. But the problem here is that I relied entirely on the concept without stoping to think of how nice the piece was to actually look at. Because it’s not nice to look at. It’s not beautiful. I thought that the uniqueness and creativity of the piece was enough, but looking back on these photos years later it is clear that it was NOT enough.
So now that I have thoroughly embarrassed myself by showing you my early unimpressive work, I shall conclude.
Never ever ever sacrifice beauty for creativity or uniqueness. At least not when it comes to design.