“Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit – all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.”
― Brian Eno, A Year With Swollen Appendices
“A simple example of a good design is the 3½-inch magnetic diskette for computers, a small circle of floppy magnetic material encased in hard plastic. Earlier types of floppy disks did not have this plastic case, which protects the magnetic material from abuse and damage. A sliding metal cover protects the delicate magnetic surface when the diskette is not in use and automatically opens when the diskette is inserted into the computer. The diskette has a square shape: there are apparently eight possible ways to insert it into the machine, only one of which is correct. What happens if I do it wrong? I try inserting the disk sideways. Ah, the designer thought of that. A little study shows that the case really isn’t square: it’s rectangular, so you can’t insert a longer side. I try backward. The diskette goes in only part of the way. Small protrusions, indentations, and cutouts, prevent the diskette from being inserted backward or upside down: of the eight ways one might try to insert the diskette, only one is correct, and only that one will fit. An excellent design.”
– Donald Norman, The Design of Everyday Things
“To keep utensils, apparatus and utilities in mind is difficult
because these kinds of technological objects are designed to be unobtrusive
and make their presence felt, but not noticed.”
– Zoë Sofia, Hypatia
“The mp3 encoding process puts the body on a sonic austerity
program. It decides for its listeners what they need to hear and gives them
only that. […] It suggests how little ‘input’ people need in order to have
powerful and significant aesthetic experiences.”
– Jonathan Sterne, The Mp3 as Cultural Artifact
Most Beautiful Design is a tribute mini album to the excellent design of the 3.5” floppy disk and to the dexterous workings of audio mp3 audio. The project was conceived to be small enough to be contained on a single floppy disk, exploiting the behaviour of very low bitrate mp3 compression, its audio artefacts and nonlinearity, as an instrument and mean of composition in which low fidelity doesn’t hide, but reveals new informations.
Most Beautiful Design celebrates the role these humble technologies played in the diffusion of music and knowledge. Bienoise collected samples from a simpler digital past to shape them into dense and soulful vignettes, that seek not to induce melancholy, but trust in our technology. To save, to share.
Video by Paul Simon Heyduck here