Designing for Beautility: Where Beauty Meets Utility

Economics grab all the headlines but beauty is just as important, and even has serious financial ramifications.

Economics grab all the headlines but beauty is just as important, and even has serious financial ramifications. Beauty does serve a function. Didn’t the way that cars used to look–and no longer do–have a big effect on the failure of Detroit? Beauty is more than skin deep. Beauty is powerful. Utility is beautiful and beauty has utility. Let’s call it “Beautility” for short.


The Avanti Studebaker, designed by Raymond Loewy (and one of my dad’s favorites)

Beauty has different meanings in different cultures and eras–but everybody has some idea of beauty (even the Hell’s Angels). Although humans can’t agree on specific examples, we do all share a general formula for beauty: It has a very pleasing physical sensual element combined with mental enlightenment. “Aaaahs” and “Ah-has.” It’s the combination. There is an intellectual component to a beautiful person and an emotional component to a beautiful mathematical proof. The experience of beauty is the result of the convergence of body, mind, and soul. Form and function melt together. Art and science dance.


The Eiffel Tower, an obvious feat of engineering whose only function is to show off

Compared to survival, beauty may not be a critical necessity like air, but beauty is certainly not a luxury either. Beauty drives evolution. In Sleeping Beauty, the evil queen had to ask her mirror what was beautiful (obviously she was not a designer). “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” (Quality is reflected in the visual image). The way things look is important. Is it only skin deep? You can judge a book by looking at the cover!”


These Serengeti sunglasses designed while at Smart Design combine modern
ergonomics and classic styling with a little refinement

My teacher, and one of founders of the Pratt Institute’s industrial design program, Rowena Reed Kostellow, said: “Pure, unadulterated beauty should be the goal of civilization.” Like water and health care, Beautility is an essential civic utility that sustains our life form.


Jim Clark’s old Lotus Formula 1: Where form and function meet

I have coined this word Beautility because I want people to realize that even in our mercenary world, beauty is not just about flower displays. Beautility is a new way of framing beauty, as something that serves a function, that elevates it to the bottom line. When things have a name and people can point at it, then it will be easier for them to appreciate the value. Designers are key drivers in the beauty business. The design profession’s job is to create Beautility!


Read Tucker Viemeister’s blog What’s Cookin’?
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Tucker Viemeister leads the Lab at
Rockwell Group, an interactive technology design group combining
digital interaction design, modeling, and prototyping for hotels and
restaurants, casinos, packaging, and products. The LAB seeks to blur
the line between the physical and virtual, exploring and experimenting
with interactive digital technology in objects, environments, and
stories. Tucker also co-founded the collaborative Studio Red with David
Rockwell that was dedicated to innovation for Coca-Cola. Since joining
Rockwell Group in 2004, Tucker has been instrumental in the design and
development of JetBlue’s Marketplace at the JFK International Airport,
“Hall of Fragments,” an installation that opened the Corderie
dell’Arsenale at the 2008 Venice Biennale, a “living wall” for the
lobby of the Sheraton Toronto, the traveling Red Lounge for Coca-Cola,
and MGM City Centre in Las Vegas.


About the author

Tucker Viemeister is Lab Chief of Rockwell Group’s interactive technology design Lab combining digital interaction design, modeling and prototyping for hospitality, retail, packaging and products. The Lab experiments with interactive digital technology in objects, environments and stories - blurring the line between the physical and virtual


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