Designing forms for today’s society

144 Trapèzes (144 Trapeziums) —Vera Molnar (1974)— computer graphic, open series, 16 variations

Form and information are concepts so strictly interconnected to each other that one would be non-existent, or rather impossible to understand, without the other. Living in a world that relies on processing information means that humans are both the makers and the end-users of the mass of information they associate to. Yet, to make use of such data we depend on form, I.e the way information is presented.

“When we leave work, we do not leave information society. In our everyday life, we use search engines, we retrieve data from databases, and we rely on personal information appliances and personal information managers.” (L. Manovich, Introduction to Info-Aesthetics, 2008)

To an attentive enquiry, the word “information” contains the word “form” inside it […]. In reality it is the other way around: in order to be useful to us, information always has to be wrapped up in some external form.¹

Art, sitting at the earth of contemporary culture, isn’t excluded from such business of information processing. Cybernetic art, a branch “that builds upon the legacy of Cybernetics”², is particularly involved in the process of giving form to information.

Concepts have been developed by theorists such as Max Bense and Abraham Moles which speculate on a body of rules aimed at generating non-redundant artworks which focus on information processing. The “avoidance of transgression” and the “elimination of the avoidable” are, Bense affirms, necessary practices to achieve the ultimate form of information aesthetics.

However, redundancy is “inevitable” to the creation any artwork, and it may actually help the beholder approach the work with some interest. Elaborating on such notions, Moles argues that the observer’s previous knowledge is just as fundamental to the understanding of a work.

A. Michael Noll — Gaussian-Quadratic (1963)

The concept of information should be understood as content measurable in the transmission and storage of messages. All information on whose transmission communication is based, is built up by means of “signs”. (C. Giannetti, Cybernetic Aesthetics and Communication)

Contemporary design was substantially influenced by the notions of information aesthetic introduced and developed during the 50s and 60s. Designers started to build focusing on the human perception — especially the visual perception — of their work, which became more communicative. It is this work, which eventually gave rise to computer art and many other branches of new media art in the years to follow.


References:

  1. L. Manovich (2008). Introduction to Info-Aesthetics. [Online]. Available at http://manovich.net/index.php/projects/introduction-to-info-aesthetics
  2. Wikipedia. Cybernetic Art [Online] Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cybernetic_art

Francesco Imola is a London-based musician, weekend photographer, and current Sound Design student at the University of Greenwich.

w. http://francescoimola.com/

tw. https://twitter.com/francescoimola