Why You Should Intentionally "Get it Wrong"

Why You Should Intentionally "Get it Wrong"

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Carolyn Purnell
Oct 8, 2014
(Image credit: Carolyn Purnell)

Recently Scott Dadich wrote a fascinating piece for Wired in which he argued that "getting it wrong" is not a bad thing. In fact, the way he sees it, it's the only way forward. Writing about technological design, he suggests "that intentional wrongness could yield strangely pleasing results," a concept that could just as easily apply to interior design.

Dadich's lead example is Edgar Degas' Jockeys Before the Race, in which Degas opted to stick a giant pole right in the middle of his canvas, cutting starkly through the image. As Dadich puts it,

Degas wasn't just “thinking outside of the box,” as the innovation cliché would have it. He wasn't trying to overturn convention to find a more perfect solution. He was purposely creating something that wasn't pleasing, intentionally doing the wrong thing.

According to Dadich, technological changes happen in a cycle: early practitioners improve the rules, and over time those rules become laws. Designers devote themselves to excellence within those parameters, which leads to the refinement of the form. But, as he points out, "there's a downside to all this consensus—it can get boring. From smartphones to operating systems to web page design, it can start to feel like the truly transformational moments have come and gone, replaced by incremental updates…"

In Dadich's estimation, this is precisely the moment when we need to get it wrong. Instead of seeking more polish and perfection, it's time to break the rules and stick a pole in the painting. Imperfection is the guide to new large-scale developments, since it is in the imperfect that we find surprise, unease, and interest. In other words, "We may find comfort in what we know we like, but it's the aberrations that bring us to attention."

Recently, I've heard the frequent lament from bloggers and blog-lovers alike that in the era of so much internet inspiration, everything starts to look the same. Certain styles can be eminently pleasing, but they're comfortable, familiar. They no longer challenge you, and all that inspiration starts to clog up the very creative pathways that it was meant to jolt back to life.

Don't get me wrong. I love Pinterest, blog communities, Instagram, and the myriad other ways that we've come to share our talents and designs. But I also think that too much of a good thing is still too much, and it's far too easy to polish a good thing until it wears away into something much less splendid. For instance, Louis XIV of France acquired the gem that we now know as the Hope Diamond in 1678, and in order to make it gleam better, he commissioned to have it cut. Each time it was brought back for inspection, Louis would request more shine, and by the time it was complete, it had been worn down by about 60% (from 115 carats to the 67 carats we know and love today). I would wager that at some point before he stopped, he was just gilding the lily, seeking the perfection of an already beautiful object.

Instead, perhaps we should take Dadich's advice and forget about the expected forms of beauty. Just as there can be something deeply resonant about guitar distortion, there are probably decorating moves that we can make that aren't "beautiful," per se, but that have the power to inspire us, move us, and surprise us. So I'd like to encourage you to subvert convention, make mistakes, and think of ways to add your own slice of "wrong" to your home. As Dadich points out, this doesn't have to be some huge moment of wrong (a toilet in the middle of the kitchen, for instance); it can be a small, not-quite-right touch that ends up elevating the whole room. Perhaps it will be a change in proportion, color, style, organization, or function that will do the trick. In the words of Dadich, "...only by courting failure can we find new ways forward."

To read the entirety of Dadich's excellent article, visit Wired.

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