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Design for Hackers: Reverse-Engineering Beauty by David Kadavy

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Chapter 4: Technology and Culture

As discussed in Chapters 1 and 2, design is a product of many “layers.” The purpose of a piece of design sets the foundation upon which these layers are built. As illustrated in Chapter 3, the medium with which a particular typeface is created interacts with the alphabet to create letters that have differing qualities. And, as I’ll talk about more in Appendix A, certain philosophies and cultural factors further evoke particular moods in various type styles.

Aside from the medium in which a particular design product is created, the very world within which the designer lives has a tremendous influence on the form that she creates. The most successful designs, those that set trends and eventually stand the test of time, express – and sometimes change – the spirit of their time. The very best designers are either actively aware of this influence or surrender their process to its gentle hand.

The product of this confluence of medium, technology, and culture is what most people recognize as a “style.” It manifests itself as art movements or design trends. To the viewer, it may be all about the “look,” but this “look” is a product of many factors. If a designer were to simply try to copy a “look,” he would likely end up doing little more than creating the veneer to which the Steve Jobs quote in Chapter 1 refers. To really create a design that belongs in its time and place, a designer must yield his process to the influences of his world.

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