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Virtuous Wrong

Scott Dadich, Wired editor in chief, advocates intentional wrong as a design virtue.

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In a recent article, titled “Why Getting It Wrong Is the Future of Design,” Scott Dadich, Wired editor in chief, advocates intentional wrong as a design virtue. He illustrates his theme with the 19th century French realist and impressionist painter Edgar Degas, who had originally been schooled in the neoclassicist and romanticist tradition.

In Jockeys Before the Race, a “beautifully balanced impressionistically rendered painting painting,” Dadich writes, “Degas added a crucial, jarring element: a pole, running vertically — and asymmetrically — in the immediate foreground, right through the head of one of the horses.”

While his “transgression” horrified critics at the time, according to Dadich, Degas went on to inspire many a future artist and he is now widely recognized as one of the founders of the impressionist and realist painting schools.

On the design front (and perhaps even more broadly) the Apple aesthete now constitutes perhaps another romanticist moment — that of “sleek sophistication,” pasteurization even, all in sync with its cambered edges and elegant, clean typefaces.

Dadich alludes to a moment he broke from that monotony and precision in a cover he prepared for Wired magazine in 2006. He was working on a monochromatic cover and his editor complained that it looked dull, advising him, “Can’t you just add more color?”

In irritation (he uses a more colorful and indelicate word), he put a small neon orange stripe on the left edge of the page. It was — and looked — careless and pointless.

Dadich writes that he was agitated by it at the time, but gradually grew to like it and from that experience he has now evolved what he calls his Wrong Theory of Design. In his work that means making large pictures small, overlapping text and graphics, running headlines at the bottom of a story instead of at the top, asking his designers to mess up each other’s perfect layout.

Intentional wrongness, he calls it.

Break a rule — intentionally.

It may be good advice for anything we do in our personal or professional life. Ever so often, go against the grain, defy the head, or the heart.

Life has become far too antiseptic, regimented even.

So go ahead. Break one of your sacrosanct rules.

Did it give you a new insight?

No?

But surely it felt good. Yeah!

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Commentary | Books | December 2014

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