Quotidian Aesthetics: The Design Paradigm

I have long-believed that aesthetics should be part of our everyday lives, and then philosophers started publishing books and articles about this idea I took for granted. However, I see that the literature in aesthetics did not always warrant such a conclusion, especially with an overwhelming focus on the arts.

The “Everyday Aesthetics” movement in philosophy has challenged traditional aesthetics by showing that the discourse should not focus exclusively on fine art or on nature. Those two areas are certainly part of the totality of aesthetics, but we should not ignore other everyday experiences or objects.

For example, like many people, I like my morning coffee. After years of having adequate but cheap coffee mugs, I finally decided to get a nicer one. A friend of mine is a potter, so I decided to invest in a really nice coffee mug and in a way that supports a friend. For many, it may not be a coffee cup, but there are choices we make that depend in part upon aesthetic considerations.

Mug by Tyson Graham Pottery.

A lot of daily objects are functional (e.g., coffee mugs, lamps, etc.), but the choice between two equally functional objects is often made for aesthetic reasons. The people who designed these objects want them to work, but they also want them to have a particular look. That ‘look’ is important for daily (functional) objects, as it is for objects of pure contemplation.

Why is this important? If aesthetics is only about art, then the problems about access to art would apply to aesthetics as well. But if aesthetics is something that is experienced in daily lives, regardless of culture, financial status, or any other factor, then it becomes a more important issue. Aesthetics should be a factor, among others, that governments consider when making policy.

For Further Reading:

Jane Forsey, The Aesthetics of Design, Oxford University Press, 2012.

Yuriko Saito, Everyday Aesthetics, Oxford University Press, 2007.

Thomas Leddy, The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: The Aesthetics of Everyday Life, Broadview Press, 2012.

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