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The Timeless Way of Building ~ Notes

Notes on ‘The Timeless Way of Building’ by Christopher Alexander.

“A pattern language gives each person who uses it, the power to create an infinite variety of new and unique buildings…”      – Chapter 10, opening page

  • I think this can easily relate to Graphic Design if you consider the ‘pattern language’ to be a grid or a uniform understanding that we are all enabled with, and it is up to each person who has that access to create something new and original out of it (create a new and unique building). Since Graphic Design always stems from the same place (a designer trying to create a piece that works around a specific grid/layout), it seems like it may be easy to get stuck in the same old pattern.. however, it’s up to those who have that ‘power’ of knowledge of desirable design to use it to it’s full potential and create something out of it that hasn’t been done before…

“The patterns which are typical of other barns are still present in these two barns; but the way in which the patterns are combined is utterly different” – p.178

  • This most obviously relates to Graphic Design in how all Graphic Design can be broken down into one thing: a basic grid or layout, but how things are arranged (their ‘patterns’), what colors are used, the variations in weight and size, etc., are all what makes each piece different, even though they are all essentially built with the same structure.

“It is not the idea of copying which is at fault…this image, which the farmer has in mind… is a system of patterns which function like a language.”

  •  As Graphic Designers, we all share this ‘language’ of what is successful design and what is not, so the notion of ‘copying’ is a common one, although it isn’t copying since it is already part of our language that we understand, we just need to alter it in some form. It would be impossible for a Graphic Designer, or any person in general, when prompted to imagine what a Magazine cover looks like, to not have an image pop up in their head. That image of a magazine cover is successful as a language and therefore embedded in our system, so no designer would approach  a Magazine Cover design with absolutely no recognition as to what’s already been done successfully.. (I wanted to go on but I lost my train of thought….)

 “When the barn builder applies the patterns for a barn to one another in the proper order, he is able to create a barn. This barn will always have the particular relationships required by the patterns; however, all other sizes, angles, and relationships depend on the needs of the situation, and the whim of the builder.” – p.183

  •  It’s true that Graphic Designers have a particular “template” or “rules” in their head that base what they create their designs off of, but all designers will create something different based on their individual creativity and personality, and what circumstances the design is intended for…

“But overall, throughout the differences, there is a constancy, a harmony, created by the repitition of the underlying patterns.” – p.191

  • No matter how many strikingly different kinds of designs there are out there, or different styles of creativity, they all will essentially have a similar underlying layout or grid, which if people take the time to dissect and understand design, they will notice (which is essentially one of the cores of my education – learning how to dissect these designs to see that no matter how different they are, they all start out the same way).

“The patterns, which repeat themselves, come simply from the fact that all the people have a common language, and that each one of them uses this common language when he makes a thing.” -p.209

  • Pretty self-explanatory :p


Posted by Amanda Fairchild on January 12, 2013

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