The World of Design, a Designed World: the Relevance of Aesthetics for Everyday Life


  • Anna Calvera University of Barcelona; GRACMON UB Research Unit


rethinking humanities


At present, the issue of the aestheticisation of capitalism, and the commercial and everyday world too, is taken for granted. It is a widely accepted approach to understand the 21st century paradigm. However, the aestheticisation issue itself recurrently takes the blame for the present situation and so the field of aesthetics is assuming rather negative new meanings. Historically, this can be considered part of the legacy of recent postmodernism. It is true that aesthetics and a sort of aestheticism drive many consumerist behaviours across the world at present. No- netheless, consumerism is just one social behaviour among many others in which the aesthetic faculty, the sense of beauty or ugliness, is at work. However, from design and the design culture points of view, aestheticisation may not necessarily carry evils; on the other hand, it could also be a consequence of a careful and ethical approach to the making of things while preserving their original values. Is it possible to develop an aesthetic discourse outside arts and fine arts? Is it possible to reflect upon all those humble, useful and pretty things that populate everyday life for so many people across the world? In fact, aesthetic worth is seldom recognised and rarely appreciated if objects are not identified as pieces of art. Whether meaning the human faculty able to enjoy beautiful and attractive things, or the discourse about the feeling of enjoyment gathered historically by humanities, aesthetics can have a wider scope, much bigger than the small area that of Fine Arts deals with. An aesthetic dimension can and should be observed in every element that shapes daily life, whether commodities, appliances or tools that are noticed, touched and experienced through the senses, or places to live in and behave inside, breathing and enjoying a special atmosphere – this factor can be perfectly adapted to screens and their sensitive re- presentation of the world inside; the aesthetic dimension extends to benefiting from services as well, with their ensuing individual appearance duly converted into visual signs [[: −) =: ( this is a picture: see Fig. 1!]. Surprisingly, all these common and widely sha- red features of human life are at present rarely acknowledged as factors of humanising and civilising processes. This text aims to reflect upon the humblest and most common side of aesthetic behaviour and choices, these aesthetic joys that are so important in managing everyday life, communicating with other people, providing personal wellbeing and guaranteeing quality of life for a wide social community. The reflection in this text reviews philosophical aesthetics and considers that aesthetic appreciation and enjoyment are everlasting human behaviours, a human competence that operates to build up the ar- tificial world. Then, because aesthetic categories for dealing with ordinary, trivial and everyday life are not easy to define theoretically and have rarely been considered by philosophical aesthetics, the aim of this chapter is also to show some positive aesthetic issues related to present everyday life as it is lived on both sides of the screen.