A dear friend of mine sent me, belatedly, a birthday gift--a faux-velvet-clad box set of 13 Tony Bennett CDs. I had mentioned to her--and to inveterate readers of this blog that I had heard Bennett singing on a previously un-issued V-Disk, a rendition of "St. James Infirmary," one of my favorite songs of all time. I had never been a great fan of Bennett's, more because there were others I liked more but when this gift arrived yesterday, I was looking forward to finding the time to listen.
When I was an adolescent I started doing very badly in the elite private school I had been sentenced to. I had completely stopped caring about grades, was bored with school and stopped doing any reading at all, much less studying. The school showed their concern not by talking to me about what was wrong but by making me take a series of IQ tests to see if I had gotten in by mistake.
Not to boast but I did so well on the first IQ test they gave me, scoring in the top .1% that they made me take the test again where I duplicated my prior score.
40 years ago, I was tested and proven not to be a moron.
Today, however, as I tried to unopen the CD box set, I was proved otherwise. It was oh-so-well-designed. It had little grosgrain tabs that indicated when I should pull. Which I did. Only to rip apart the cardboard container.
I was outsmarted by the designers of the box.
Which, to me, was a metaphor.
So much of contemporary design is fluffy, gratuitous and deleterious to usability. It "looks great" in a lab of like-minded designers, but in the real world (and I include New York City as part of that world) it is inscrutable and interfering.
I'm sure in the scheme of things my Tony Bennett box set will win a design award or two. It was probably beautiful on the shelf.
But design, at least to my moronic mind has a functional aspect as well or else it is just decoration.