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By steve - Posted on 03 March 2009

I do a lot of design work. I'm better at systems internals than I am at UI, but I know what I like in a UI and can usually mimic it (especially within the confines of a predefined UI set of rules such as Windows MDI or Google Android, if you follow what I mean).

Anyway, I'm intrigued by product design, architecture, photography, graphics layout, video editing, etc. and they all require an understanding of design and design principles (or at least the ability to mimic them) so I'm often on the lookout for theoretical works on the subject.

I enjoyed reading Matthew E. May's PDF "In Pursuit of Elegance" for that reason.

This short 6 page work is really just a preview to May's book of the same name. As he says in the last lines of the PDF:

"there is only one matter left to discuss in order to bring the search for elegance to its conclusion, and that is an understanding of a technique by which the power of the missing piece can be applied in such a way that it maintains its power and place in whatever we attempt—an unpacking, if you will, from the travels through elegance.

"And for that, I’m afraid, you will need to purchase the book."

What makes this PDF worth reading (for the price)? It raises interesting issues about the definition of "elegance" and provides some interesting examples. He does trot out some rather worn stories (hasn't everyone heard that Michelangelo said carving the statue of David was "simply a matter of removing the stone that was not David"?) and there are a few typos, but I did find it an interesting read.

The definition he uses, that "Elegance is at once symmetrical, seductive, subtractive, and sustainable" is a good one and is, itself, elegant.

Good enough definition that I might even buy the book, or at least get it from the library. (Hey, if you click on that link and pre-order before May 19, 2009 or buy the book after that, I get some Ama$on.)


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