For a designer, “ugliness” hasn’t historically been something to strive for. Beauty has largely been a no-brainer when it comes to what’s desirable, or what constitutes “good” design.
Yet, culturally, we’re becoming increasingly fatigued by perfection. After years of brands behaving in similarly simple, orderly ways, we’re yearning for expressions that are less hygienic and altogether more human. When designers do away with old-fashioned principles that align “good” with “beautiful,” they have the freedom to make work that’s infinitely more creative. And in doing so, it’s more interesting—and more inclusive.
Design that destabilizes inherited “rules” around ugly and beautiful rewrites what’s seen as acceptable. It progresses visual culture by celebrating playfulness and forging intimacy by underscoring the limitations (and untruths) of perfection. It subtly helps everyone from brands to designers to consumers communicate more honestly.
An itching for “ugly” could be seen as cyclical, in design circles at least. As Stephen Heller wrote in Eye back in 1993, “Designers used to stand for beauty and order. Now beauty is passé and ugliness is smart.”