Seven Fundamentals of Good Design

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My woodworking mentor, Robert Van Norman, studied under the esteemed woodworker James Krenov. Robert remembers many of JK’s wise words, especially “trust your eye”. When it was time for me to hear those words, I remember feeling such relief and permission to embrace my inherent perspicacity. Intuition is essential in the design and creation process, and for developing work that reflects the maker beyond his or her technical skill alone.

At times, the craftsperson is called on to explain the aesthetics of his design and saying “it just feels right” doesn’t always cut it. This article covers seven common design considerations, their definition and how they are generally accepted and understood.

Not only will the article help increase design vocabulary and awareness, but it may also assist in problem solving and recognizing the aesthetic strengths and weaknesses of a furniture piece.

The best way to use this article is to visually break the furniture piece down with reference to the categories listed. On a piece of paper, write down the main focus or core of the piece and place it beside the project. With a critical eye, question whether all the elements support the main goal. Ask why you have designed it this way. For example, if the main focus is to have a comfortable chair, you might want to consider which lines, texture or colours visually inspire people to think the chair is comfortable and stable even before they sit in it.

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