NO DETAIL IS SMALL: NUANCE

Nuance

Nuance is that most intriguing and elusive of qualities, something that we can never quite grasp, somehow indefinable and yet present to the eye and the mind, the senses and the intellect. Nuance lies in the subtle gradations of color that lend dimension to a textile or richness to a walnut finish. Or again, nuance reveals itself in a detail with overtones of the past, an element of design that references a traditional method of construction or an exquisite finish that blurs the boundaries between technique and art. The details of any designed thing, however small or subtle, evoke ideas, sensations or emotions and are key to the fundamental appeal of the object.

The merest thing—the beveled edge of a table, the slight curve of a seat, the angle of a leg or a lustrous or matte finish on a drawer pull—lends the most practical of objects a refinement greater than its fellows. Details create nuance and hint at possible meanings, they speak to us in ways that we intuitively understand, articulating the purpose or significance of an object, endowing the object with its special distinction and beauty.

To create nuance, we rely not only on concept, on line and proportion, but also on craft, for it is craft that connects concept to execution, the sketch to the prototype and the model to the finished product. Craft transforms ideas and raw materials into chairs, stools, trolleys and tables that look as good and function as well as when the designer intended when they were first conceived. Craft is not limited to the handmade one-off. It is integral to the manufacturing processes that create the visual and structural continuity of mass-produced products as well. The significance of craft reveals itself in such details as the perfect execution of a sculpted curve or the nuance created by the flawless stitches that fit fabric to the frame of a chair. At the same time, craft reveals a subtle understanding of material—a beautiful pattern of grain or the suppleness of wood—and the techniques that may be used to create the neat fit of parts or fluidity of line.

null
null
null

Preview more of this chapter's photography on Facebook or download the full book below.


There are as many ways to write about design as there are ways to practice it. We can describe, analyze, compare, judge and classify; propose theories about creativity, form and social function. We can characterize design as a language or a way of thinking. Or, we can consider one key aspect of design, the detail. For while a detail may be small in scale—a button, a stitch, a latch, a molding—the subject is not a trivial one. The design detail carries larger concepts no matter its size. It may be less encompassing than the whole, but its meaning is not less deep. Detail makes design not only intelligible, but also memorable and meaningful. Download No Detail Is Small and explore it in detail.