Imperfections are what humanize design – whether you are designing buildings, interiors, or products. Let us take a look at some examples.
Consider the following: You are a digital nomad and go where life takes you. You are comfortable working out of your hotel room, or a nearby café. But this time, a friend has invited you to join him at home and share his home office. You accept. But when you turn up at his home, you find out that you are on the terrace. The room opens onto a beautiful terrace garden, but you notice something else. It has a wooden door, a pair of thick curtains, and a door made of fine mesh. You wonder why you need three – when just the door will do.
Then you find out. When the sun comes up in the late morning, you draw the curtain. It keeps the harsh light out but lets the cool breeze in. A little later, when the traffic noise gets on your nerves, you can close the door. And by late evening, when it gets unbearable warm, you can open the door and the curtains, but keep the mesh door closed to keep the mosquitoes out.
It might not be perfect, but it works beautifully. That is the hallmark of great design.
Similarly, let us take a look at one of the most iconic products of the 21st century – the Boeing 747 aircraft. More specifically, it’s an iconic hump. The idea was to move the cockpit out of the way so that the entire length of the aircraft could be used for passengers or cargo. This meant putting the cockpit on top, creating the ‘hump’. This actually led PanAm, the first customer to buy the new aircraft in 1969, to use the space for first-class passengers. What was considered a flaw in its design actually became its selling point – more space!
Another example, from the field of architecture, is St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Sir Christopher Wren’s design, including a large stone lantern on the dome, meant the cathedral was too heavy to stand on marshy land. To address the problem, Wren made the structure wider and broader, and the dome bigger and more circular – giving it the classical proportions it is now so famous for. The extra space hides the support systems – an inverted catenary arch and flying buttresses – that makes the building lighter and stronger, and stop it from sinking.