How Did Beauty Get Such a Bad Rap?

How did beauty get such a bad rap? Architect Louis Sullivan did it no favors when he declared, “form follows function.” Modern artists, architects and designers wrote beauty off as a surface trait employed for its own sake. And while we’ve been through countless artistic and cultural trends since then, beauty has retained its negative connotation. To call something ‘beautiful’ is to suggest it is pretty on the outside, but otherwise unsubstantial, hollow.

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Inspired by airport carpets, the cover pattern of the Mohawk Maker Quarterly Issue 10 aims to create beauty from a source we rarely notice and otherwise find aesthetically unappealing.

Why is this? I think we’re quick to dismiss beauty because we don’t have the language to discuss it. Webster’s first definition, “the quality of being physically attractive,” is unhelpful. The second definition sets us on a better path: “the qualities in a person or thing that give pleasure to the senses or the mind.”

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That’s why beauty is so powerful. It triggers emotion. It attracts. It gives pleasure. What’s more, beauty is universal: Everyone, regardless of culture, age or experience can recognize and appreciate a beautiful person, scene, object or sound, even though we have differing opinions of what qualifies a s beautiful. When something captures your attention or stirs your emotions, look more closely: Beauty stems not just from outward appearance, but from the substance or story that lies beneath. Let’s consider beauty on a deeper level—and harness the connection between meaning and beauty to create transformative work.

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This article was originally published in Issue 10 of the Mohawk Maker Quarterly. The Mohawk Maker Quarterly is a vehicle to support a community of like-minded makers. Content focuses on stories of small manufacturers, artisans, printers, designers, and artists who are making their way in the midst of the digital revolution. Learn more about the quarterly here and sign up to receive future printed issues.

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