If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Tag: design

Richard Dawkins – “Irreducible Complexity” (2006)

The greater the statistical improbability, the less plausible is chance as the solution: that is what improbable means. But the candidate solutions to the riddle of improbability are not, as is falsely implied, design and chance. They are design and natural selection. Chance is not a solution, given the high levels of improbability we see in living organisms, and no sane biologist ever suggested that it was.

(quoted in The Portable Atheist)


Mark Twain – Fables of Man (1972)

Take the fly, for instance. The planning of the fly was an application of pure intelligence, morals not being concerned. Not one of us could have planned the fly, not one of us could have constructed him; and no one would have considered it wise to try, except under an assumed name. It is believed by some that the fly was introduced to meet a long-felt want. In the course of ages, for some reason or other, there have been millions of these persons, but out of this vast multitude there has not been one who has been willing to explain what the want was. At least satisfactorily. A few have explained that there was a need of a creature to remove disease-breeding garbage; but these being then asked to explain what long-felt want the disease-breeding garbage was introduced to supply, they have not been willing to undertake the contract.

(quoted in The Portable Atheist)

Sebastian Deterding – “What your designs say about you” (2011)

…And if you look into the designed environment around us with that kind of lens, asking, “What is the vision of the good life that our products, our designs, present to us?,” then you often get the shivers because of how little we expect of each other and of how little we actually seem to expect of our life.

Michel Foucault – “On the genealogy of ethics” (1984)

Why should the lamp or the house be an art object, but not our life?

Edward Tufte – The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1983)

The principles [of data-graphic design] should not be applied rigidly or in a peevish spirit; they are not logically or mathematically certain; and it is better to violate any principle than to place graceless or inelegant marks on paper….

What is to be sought in designs for the display of information is the clear portrayal of complexity. Not the complication of the simple; rather the task of the designer is to give visual access to the subtle and the difficult—that is, the revelation of the complex.

Edward Tufte – The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1983)

The best graphics are about the useful and important, about life and death, about the universe. Beautiful graphics do not traffic with the trivial.

Edward Tufte – The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1983)

If the statistics are boring, then you’ve got the wrong numbers. Finding the right numbers requires as much specialized skill—statistical skill—and hard work as creating a beautiful design or covering a complex news story.

Edward Tufte – The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1983)

Graphical excellence is that which gives to the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space.

Simon Garfield – Just My Type (2010)

This is the best thing about the ampersand — its energy, its refusal to sit still. It is almost impossible to look at one and not think about its shape, or to draw one and not think about liberation.

Simon Garfield – Just My Type (2010)

[The Caslon ampersand] is fiendishly difficult to draw, and when done badly may resemble aimless scribble. But when done well, it can be a work of wild freehand art that few regular characters are allowed to be. It can bestow aristocratic virtue to a font, and it can cause the writer about fonts a considerable struggle to contain the purple prose.