The Blind Design Paradox

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Those outside the design industry may often wonder what makes for good architectural design. Most laypeople would say good design is aesthetically pleasing and unique, but their assessment would likely end there.

Rarely do people stop to think what makes for good architectural design for those who lack the ability to see. The Blind Design Paradox, a term coined by WJM architect William J. Martin, considers what factors make architectural design stand out from the point of view of the visually impaired.

Martin says the blind design philosophy attempts to create equilibrium between design factors while transcending architectural fashion. In hopes of empowering architects and designers, the philosophy encourages finding an appropriate balance between three fundamental factors of architectural design: aesthetics, function and economics.

The Blind Design Paradox means architecture and building design should not serve the designers, but rather serve the people who will use the building. Creating a design for the visually impaired obviously poses challenges for designers as the aesthetic factor is virtually eliminated.

The Blind Design Paradox highlights the importance of balancing the three factors of architectural design effectively. In terms of catering for those who cannot see a building’s design, architects focus on creating tactile and acoustic beauty to create aesthetic appeal.

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The function factor is important when designing for the blind as textures can assist the visually impaired to locate and orient themselves.

The economics factor refers to distributing financial resources to acquire a diversity of textured materials to create a balance with the function and aesthetic factors. This may even include creating new materials or technology to enhance features for the visually impaired.

Incapable of experiencing the visual beauty of a design, the visually impaired do not benefit from a building not suited to their needs, proving that a unique, interesting look alone does not constitute good design.

The Blind Design Paradox shows that architectural beauty catered towards the user is far more profound than a typical aesthetically pleasing design catering for the masses.

By Kristen Avis
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