An Aesthetic Language of Place

Every place we go and every place we create has an aesthetic palette from which it draws the colors, the texture, the sounds, the smells, the iconography, the typography, the organization, all the sensory and symbolic data that make up a place.

This aesthetic language of place forms a rich broth from which we derive an emotional reaction.  This feeling is a complicated and layered mix of memories and associations that we instantly relate to the sensory and symbolic detail of a place. Old wood and warm colors and smells of woodsmoke leave most of us feeling cozy, restful, and safe. Light and bright colors, hard textures, and sharp corners make us excited, energized, ready to be productive.

Reactions to an aesthetic language of place are far from universal. The aesthetics of a cozy cabin might make you feel claustrophobic. Hard edges and clean lines might make you feel alienated. These associations are wholly learned.  They are part of the social fabric in which our own experiences are woven.

For place creators, designers, product makers, and artists this aesthetic language can serve as a kind of a shorthand. It can create a link to a feeling associated with a place.


FOMOphobia Aesthetics - DMV

As you know, I created a digital mock-up of the FOMOphobia project a few weeks ago.


Here’s one of the modules. While it helped clarify some of the aesthetics and organizational details, I didn’t like it. The stainless steel frame and engraved plexiglass meant to give it a hard-edged institutional look, ended up looking… I don’t know, wrong.

Finally, I did some work deconstructing the aesthetic palette of small handful of places that were suggested to me in a brainstorm during a critique of my piece.

I present the results here.

FOMOphobia Aesthetics - lottery

FOMOphobia Aesthetics - facebook

FOMOphobia Aesthetics - idevice

FOMOphobia Aesthetics - ikea

In general , given the goals of the piece — a form that should be simultaneously attractive and repellent, both seductive and insidious — I’m drawn to the rather similar IKEA and Facebook office designs. I might also draw from the iDevice aesthetic palette.

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