Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Design Nugget - MAYA

After a lengthy hiatus from TV/Cable, it was decided this summer that it should be reinstated for football season (which has now turned into basketball season...). There are three things that affect me in a most positive way as a result of this decision: 1) HGTV, 2) What Not to Wear and 3) Project Runway. Numbers 1&2 are ongoing privileges, and even though the most recent season for #3 is long gone, I can't wait for the next one.

This season, one of the more difficult (albeit talented, of course) participants had been called out at several points throughout the season, saying that her designs were quite similar to several big-name designers (i.e. Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, etc.). Her retort was that she never looked at other designers' lines. In the season finale, the judges challenged her back by saying that she really needed to be aware of other designers and what they were doing, because even if she came up with the most creative idea on the planet, if someone else has already done it (or something similar), then it's suddenly not so creative in the eyes of everyone else.

Sometimes I catch myself having the Kenley mindset, "Oh, I don't want to look at other people's work...I don't want it to affect my originality." Hearing the judges comments brought back a memory from college when I started making my HoneyB cards. Everyone seemed to love the different "girl" designs I was doing...and I did, too...until I walked into every store and saw multiple cards with the same idea! Suddenly I didn't feel too great about my cards. And one of the big reasons I haven't pursued the whole card business thing is from that point on I became very convicted that if I was going to do cards, I better be darn sure that they are the best cards out there. And I wasn't convinced they were...

So how does this apply to me today? Well I also started thinking that I don't know too much about design in an academic sense. I mean, if someone asked me today who my favorite designer is, what am I going to say? Jessica Baer? Tommy Torres? Eh - probably not going to cut it! So I started thinking that I need to expand my mind a bit and do some research on some people who had a hand in shaping design - both presently and historically. Not only to expand my knowledge, but also to expand my skills! It's been on my list of "to do's" for weeks now to go to the library and get some books. Right. I'll sqeeze that in between too-busy-to-go-to-the-gym and how-many-inches-of-dust-are-on-the-shelf. So I've just been scouring magazines and books around the office as much as possible.

Enter Jessica and the introduction of Raymond Loewy's MAYA principle. Most Advanced Yet Acceptable.

According to Loewy, "The adult public's taste is not necessarily ready to accept the logical solutions to their requirements if the solution implies too vast a departure from what they have been conditioned to accepting as the norm."

Brilliant! I encounter this principle nearly every day while I work...however, I'm not always willing to bend to the "YA" part of "MAYA." Or sometimes I give up on wanting to do any "MA" and resort to only "YA." It's good to remember that when all is said and done, you can spend a million hours doing the coolest most complex design, and the client will probably still go back to the little sketch he did for you on a napkin.

I love how this principle has changed my thinking behind my projects the past few days. I'm also starting to think about the other areas of my life that it might apply...


Arizona Bam said...

Very cool concept, Beth... (and a great acronym;-)

Your thoughts here reminded me of a past blog post by the hip design folks over at Rule29.

They mention American illustrator, Charley Harper, who seems to have displayed the MAYA concept pretty well considering his context.

Anyway, just thought I'd pass that along to add to your quest into design history...

Beth said...

Oooh...great nugget, Adam! Thanks!