I was shopping at a Louis Vuitton recently looking at bags to gift my wife. While there I had many questions, looked at many bags and there were some that I liked better than others for preference reasons, and knowing what my wife likes. Naturally the conversation evolved with the representative of the store, and he said something astounding! When speaking about the design of the bags which Louis Vuitton produces, the representative said this: "Most of the fundamental designs you see here in the store, with very few exceptions, were designed nearly a hundred years ago"!
I gasped, and not merely at the astonishing statement itself, but at the implications of what this meant for great design.
Have you ever wondered why high-end brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and others have such a solid following, and such highly desirable products? Its design! And not just any design, but one that is truly "timeless". In this article I want to walk you down the lanes of what stands at the base layer of great design which withstands the test of time and how that applies to visual art.
In my previous article found here, I discuss the facts associated with the philosophy of use in regards to the absolute nature of rules and guidelines in the visual arts which must be understood and executed to arrive at a great piece. With this article, I want to focus in on a more granular level of what makes great design, and that is the timeless factor. As that Louis Vuitton representative said, the most successful designs that all of these fashion designers sell were initially made decades ago! That may not be all that impressive, until you put that metric next to the ever changing fashion landscape. Fashion changes nearly every 6 months, and every couple of years there is a fundamental shift in what is considered "fresh fashion". We go forward and backwards in time constantly. Some decades we like the 70's, later we may look at the 50's and so on. The fact that we have a fashion company which makes products that are relevant and highly desirable for decades at a time shows an undeniable fact that timeless designs have power!
Now how does this all apply to the visual arts?
Whether you are making a film, or a photograph, or a painting, or designing a shoe there is one thread running through the very heart of all of these - design! In photography, you may be designing the set, the geometry of the pose in your subject, carving out light like a true master and sculpting the shape, color and texture of what you're doing. However, if you do it in a meaningless, on the surface level, your photograph may be technically correct but has not the slightest hint of something which transcends decades of change.
If all you do as a creative is to create what everyone else creates, and what is relevant and "cool" now, your hard work will be flushed down the toilet of irrelevance and "fad" within months! Is not the very premise of photography to attain timelessness? Is it not the very fundamental purpose of a photograph to be available virtually forever? Then why on God's green earth would you create a photograph with filters, and layers of junk on it that conform it to the temporary copy of what everyone else is doing NOW?
Why the plastic looking faces which drives me nuts! Why the ridiculous dual-tone and highly processed images which have no meaning? Why?! Why do you bother? It takes time to create these things, it takes time to ruin an image, it takes time to handle the shoot. Why would you opt to waste your time and make it useless?
Be wise, invest in timelessness, figure out what that means, look at classic painters and light the way they lit. Pose the way they posed. Color the way they colored, and you too will one day have a Mona Lisa!