Is there a design term which describes the aesthetic, "things which show the details of their construction".
October 31, 2012 4:47 AM   Subscribe

Is there a design term which describes the aesthetic, "things which show the details of their construction". Examples inside.

I've noticed that a lot of objects who's design appeals to have something in common: the design shows the way that they were put together. Examples:

Shirts which use contrasting colours for the stitching
Bikes where the weld marks are left unsmoothed
Tables (and other stuff) with visible tenons
Kites where each panel is a different colour

Is there a design term that describes this phenomenon? It doesn't quite fall under "form follows function" because it's not really necessary to be able to see how a shirt was constructed in order for it to do its job well. And it's not simply a question of things being left "unfinished" - it tends to be concious design decision.

Can anyone think of any more examples? And if a word doesn't exist, can we invent one? 'Constructionism'?
posted by primer_dimer to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Brutalism fits this description, but is certainly not the prototypical example thereof. Could be a place to start a search, though.
posted by cthuljew at 4:55 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Pompidou Centre in Paris comes to mind as an example. Maybe skeleton clocks and watches too. I can’t think of a generic term for such things.
posted by misteraitch at 5:09 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by tel3path at 5:11 AM on October 31, 2012

Process oriented design might fit. Though I don't think that's a pre-existing term, really. But often in art, when the artist has deliberately chosen to depict an aspect of the process of making the item, critics will talk about "Process". "The artists' process is a key aspect of the piece", to use it in a sentence.

I don't think the bike example is an aesthetic choice. Or it is, maybe, because anytime you decide whether to make something pretty vs. bare functional ugliness, that's a choice. But I don't think that's done for aesthetic reasons in the same way that your other examples are. It's done to be because leaving the welds visible doesn't compromise the structural safety of the bike at all, so why both making something nice to look at?
posted by Sara C. at 5:14 AM on October 31, 2012

I suppose this is related to Kintsugi where the repair, the mending is highlighted as a feature of the aesthetic object rather than something to hide.
posted by vacapinta at 5:29 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Structural expressionism
posted by roofus at 5:30 AM on October 31, 2012 [9 favorites]

This was often called "honest construction", "honesty in construction", or "honest craftsmanship" by designers associated with the Arts and Crafts movement. This article [PDF] says it succinctly:

[The] work had to be “honest,” meaning that the method of construction should be readily apparent. Exposed timbers in ceilings, the insertion of recesses and alcoves demonstrating wall thickness, visible dovetail joints in furniture and the staining of wood rather than painting all became the Arts and Crafts standard of beauty. These exposed elements were the “ornaments” in the Arts and Crafts vernacular, as they showcased rather than hid the construction.

Brutalism is one of many descendants of this aesthetic.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:15 AM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

Roofus, that site is terrific. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by notyou at 7:08 AM on October 31, 2012

I think "honest construction" comes closest. "Structural expressionism" is interesting, but seems like it only really applies to buildings.
posted by primer_dimer at 9:58 AM on October 31, 2012

posted by eyesontheroad at 9:14 AM on November 2, 2012

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