Expanding on a Famous Design Quote: Design as Science and Art

Inspired by a famous design quote by Robin Mathew we expand and apply the quote to the field of production design. This approach allows you to approach your work with new eyes.

“Design is where science and art break even.”          – Robin Mathew


Expanding on this Famous Design Quote

Look at what you’ve made. Beautiful, isn’t it? But does it work? For whom does it work? Of course you can use it, but can anyone else? In short, is it functional?

At the heart of every piece of practical design, whether it be the production design or set decoration of a film set, a website, product package, office building, manufacturing system, piece of furniture, software interface, book cover, tool, or anything else, there is a function, a task the item is expected to perform.

If your design is beautiful, eye-popping, aesthetically pleasing- that’s great, but does it function?

In the case of production design and set decoration: Does your set fit the story involved? How about the character/s? How about the tone? How about the genre? How about the period? Can the actors move around the set with ease considering the blocking? Will the set look good AND function if they were to change the shots without notice (which is common)? Can a cinematographer and their team light your set with ease? Can the crew enter and exit and move around without much trouble? Will any part of the set break with use? How strong is the furniture considering the action involved? Have any and all stunts been fully factored in? Did you factor the size of the costumes into the size of the set?

The list goes on and on but I’ll just reiterate- it doesn’t matter if it’s beautiful if it doesn’t function like a champ upon use.


Studio Film Set with dolly track- Design Quote


Do you agree with me? As always, I’d love to know your thoughts on this in the comments below.

Rose Lagacé | @artdepartmental


You can find previous Quote of the Day posts here.

Posted by Rose Lagacé

Rose Lagacé is a production designer for film & television by day and an emerging filmmaker by night. Rose is also the creator and editor of Art Departmental where she celebrates the art and craft of production design.

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