Design Matters: Train Your Eye - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Design Matters: Train Your Eye

 In August 2013 #205, Popular Woodworking Magazine Article Index

01pwm0813designmattersGood, better or best? Small details and design decisions make a difference.

By George R. Walker
Pages 18-20

It’s every manufacturer’s dream to have “one size fit all.” Yet imagine a trip to the shoe store and upon arriving, you discover they offer only one size. We understand clearly that function is tied directly to size; a poor- fitting shoe is painful. Yet less obvious is how the “right fit” to our eye can affect aesthetics. We respond viscerally to something far off-kilter, but struggle with those small judgments that can make the difference between the good, the better and the best. That’s at the heart of making design decisions. We search for that feeling of “rightness” for our own sake, and always in the back of our mind is the awareness that others will respond to it.

Cutting Through the Maze
That’s where the rub comes in; trusting your inner eye and making design decisions seems like a big leap into the unknown. How do we learn to use our eye to guide the dozens of design choices required to make even a simple table? What shape do I make the top? Should I stain the wood and should the finish be glossy or satin? Obviously, each of these questions leads to a dozen more, and many must be weighed against function, cost and one’s own skill.

Yet the design choices driven by function or need are not usually what we get hung up on. Roughing in those functional details, like making a table a comfortable height or adding a small drawer for your spouse’s garden journal, is straightforward. The slippery questions arise as we search for that sense of rightness to our eye.

Simplify the Process
It would be great to make solid judgments naturally, but for most of us (myself included), it involves learning how to tap into an inherent sense of proportion and getting past all the clutter blocking the view. I use a thought process I call “good, better, best” (GBB) to help me get past the clutter.

Blog: Read more from George R. Walker on his Design Matters blog.
In Our Store: George R. Walker’s DVDs, “Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design,” and “Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design: Moldings.”

From the August 2013 issue #205
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