An old journalist friend of mine once defined a well-written article as one which gets read all the way through...

An old journalist friend of mine once defined a well-written article as one which gets read all the way through. Since he also used to define a good news story as one he could file from a pub telephone this sounded slightly cynical to me, a novice prose stylist who thought it was only right that the reader should put as much effort into a piece as the writer. But I soon realised that if the purpose of an article is to communicate, then it should be done with as little fuss as possible. My red-nosed friend had a valid point: good writing is writing that you don’t notice. The words shouldn’t get in the way.

You could argue that the same is true of design – that design whose primary purpose is to get noticed is not design at all, but art, perhaps, or self-indulgence. Good design solves problems, as a lecturer I knew used to say; bad design creates them. Design has a job to do. Art’s only purpose is to engage the beholder; design is the art of problem-solving.

That is still true, especially in magazine design, but when it comes to modern boat styling it’s becoming less relevant as the traditional problem-solving role of design is increasingly pushed into the background. Those fantastic-looking side windows on many boats these days, for example, are not intended simply to make it easy to see out. In traditional design terms, as windows, they are pretty hopeless. But of course they are not just windows. Their primary purpose, as with so much modern design, is to be noticed, and in this they undoubtedly succeed.

Whether your noticing them is then automatically followed by your succumbing to an irresistible urge to get out your chequebook, however, is another matter entirely!