What do you see when you look around you?
In one word: Aesthetics.
From the Paleolithic era, the pre-historic artist added the first aesthetic properties to the tools they had at their disposal by conceiving the idea of incisions and engravings that had no other purpose than to look pretty.
Frivolous? Maybe. Yet as senseful and senseless as you and I.
The value of aesthetics lies in self-affirmation and it’s so uniquely human that you cannot exist without being aesthetic-centric. It’s simply the way you perceive the world around you, your personal response to what you see.
Accept. Click. Admit.
The conceptual philosophical enquiries are enough to fit all mindsets, from Kant who argued about the contradiction between art and work to the romantics, who illustrated the hard-to-swallow-pill of art under capitalism, as they found themselves disillusioned with bourgeois reality. In the end it all worked out to their advantage because hard-to-swallow-pills most likely lead to revolutionary ideas.
On the count of three: Viva la revolución!
And then there was Marx who –in between proletarian dreams of a classless society- will assert you that the aesthetic sensibility springs from the human process of affirmation.
Before I lose you let’s take a moment to discuss Ernst Fischer and his theory that art is humanity’s attempt to control the world.
Who did you call a control freak, you punk?
In any case and philosophical thesis, we are what we perceive and that’s why aesthetics and matters of taste are so thoroughly dominant in our lives. So it’s no wonder why so many people these days aspire to improve their artistic vision and seek education in taste.
Here’s how to improve your aesthetic vision from a minimalist’s utilitarianistic point of view.
Understand the value of aesthetics.
We are sensuous beings therefore our surroundings have a great impact on how we feel. The quality of our lives improves when we add beauteous things around us and it does not have to be necessarily materialistic. Maybe it’s the lack of things that will make you happier. For me it's less but better. Quality over quantity. Once you realize the importance of it, the concept will automatically climb higher on you priority list and that’s the first step you need to take.
To sources of inspiration. Books, magazines, films, exhibitions, travel. The more the better. It works differently for different kinds of people so don’t look for recommendations. Just head towards what you are drawn to even if you can’t identify the reason why at the moment. It’s instinctive and very safe to follow.
Pick a theme.
At some point you will –if you haven’t already, be able to identify your niche. The vision and voice that seems right for you. Every time you find something visually pleasing, take notes. Revisit your notes and see the pattern. We always, always think in patterns. For me it’s simplistic clean lines, negative space, textures amplified by the lack of color.
THE TOOL THAT WILL HELP:
Vision boards are the perfect tool to help you achieve step two: Identify the pattern that you find satisfying. Whether it’s a cork board or Pinterest, collect images of the things that inspire you. The ideation phase is a necessity as you translate your personality into visual cues. Create your personal coffee-table book. Steal ideas, you rebel!
Because then you will add your personal touch and change them forever.
Which leads us to the next point:
Develop unique perspective.
Getting inspired is cool. But the ultimate bliss is when the epiphany strikes and you reinvent what is granted. So don’t stop until you get there. Whatever is the industry you are engaging with, take a classic and turn it upside down. See what happens.
THE TOOL THAT WILL HELP:
Trial and Error.
Try. Review. Discard/Keep/Adjust.
Be detail oriented but look at the bigger picture.
It’s the details that make all the difference. But you can’t forget about the big picture as well. A great example here is interior design. There are so many beautiful decorative items to buy for your home. You focus on the details. Check all the boxes. Bring it home. Only to realize it does not go with the rest of your stuff. It’s a fine balance you have to find.
Let me go back to Kant and argue about work being strictly pragmatic and art being free and creative. I refuse to compromise. We can have both and micro-escape that mindset which in theory makes perfect sense but rules are made to be broken. Useful objects can be beautiful objects and beautiful objects can be useful too.
To me that’s an important one. I can’t see beauty when it lacks purpose. Point being maybe if you can combine both you’ll end up being more content.
Step out of the Industry.
Also a very important one. Allow me to elaborate. When you are looking to enhance your aesthetics in a specific area, try going to a different industry for inspiration. Say, you need to understand fashion. Try looking at architecture for inspiration. Are you looking to improve your photography skills? Look into your favorite films and see what makes them so special to you.
Nothing lasts forever, and we both know hearts can change. As we grow, our needs and taste grows with us. So be open to change and accept the fact that your 2018 vision board might be completely different than your 2025 vision board, and that is fine. Don’t stay attached to an aesthetic you are no longer happy with just because you once fell in love with it. Move forward.
Bring all those elements together and never stop searching. Be mindful of the things around you, size, scale, proportion, use all your senses and acclimate yourself to objects, take up aesthetic challenges and study. The whole world is a lesson.
Until the next one,