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Serious not Solemn

Serious, not Solemn

The video talk below is very interesting but, I’ll warn you, it is aimed at designers and it is over twenty minutes long.  I enjoyed it very much but not because I am a designer, although I was interested,  but because I thought it said something more about what can happen to people as they journey through life.  In her discussion about her design career she talks about the difference between seriousness and solemnity.  If you don’t feel like watching the whole video, skip through to about 12 minutes in and listen to what she says about the integration of design and typography with architecture.  It’s worth a look.

Two Sides of the Coin

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Solemn or Serious: Two sides of the same coin
photo credit: Nic Taylor Photography

Solemn and serious are two sides of the same coin. It isn’t that one is better than the other but more that they just occur. I do think that we benefit from both and that having periods of seriousness are beneficial in terms of growth and development whilst the solemn is good for helping things to settle. There’s an interesting parallel in Paula Scher’s own work where she uses her serious art to achieve solemn outcomes. She uses graphic art to help people know where they are and what to do.

typography used in building signs

Serious to Solemn: Paula Scher’s signs, Letting People Know Where they are

Serious not Solemn Play.

Scher describes her work as, “play” and goes on to define two specific types of play, the serious and the solemn.  Serious is where she feels most at liberty to create and solemn seems to come after the creativity and where her work is achieved to meet an established expectation.  It struck me that some of the features she experiences in the serious are where many people enjoy being but also find most uncomfortable.  Seriousness carries an awareness of gravity, urgency and importance where as the solemn in her talk, was more to do with routine, productivity and getting a job done.  This solemn place is more comfortable and predictable but probably, less creative.

Serious and Solemn Relationships

To continue with the ideas that the talk gave me, I think that we are all aware of the changes that go on within relationships.  When we first meet a new friend or partner or even a new neighbour or colleague, the early days and weeks are the most exciting.  That’s the serious stage.  You find out new things about each other, share common interests or learn from each other and look forward to their company.  After a while, it is quite normal for relationships to become solemn.  The friendship becomes more familiar and comfortable, and there seems to be less urgency about spending time with each other.  Occasionally, it can dip in and out of seriousness and the relationship can be invigorated.  This could be when challenges are faced, or at anniversaries or when new things and change occur.

Check out the video and let us know what you think through the comments.

Paula Scher: Great Design is Serious not Solemn

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