Dilation – Design Strategy Blog

Style vs Design

This book is about design, it’s not about style, as I like to make the distinction, not because, there is a need for debate, but rather a desire for clarity on my part.

In my opinion styles are added elements to designs. Styles like fashions are seductions on top of facts. Though no absolute line exist between the two, some general distinctions can be made about design, as I mean to use the term here and contrasted with styles, as I think of those. In order to make anything it must first be conceived, conceptualized, given a plan and form, to bring it from conception to reality. A bliss symbol for “chair” represents a minimum idea in 2 dimensions, for example. If I were to attempt to make a chair from a minimum 2 dimensions I would make a back, seat and 2 legs and surely it would fall over. The idea of chair must be expanded into three dimensions before it can be a functional item. At minimum it needs a third leg or fourth to be stable enough to sit on. I need to represent this other design dimension or communicate it’s presence to a builder. ( below ) The primary conception or seminal design is thus finished.


Style, on the other hand, starts with the seminal design and adds something else; some other elements or qualities. Colour, texture, shape, pattern, fashion, sensibilities, emotions, trends, or additional functions. Additional elements are used to redesign or stylize the primary concept. Dilation strategy can be used in both instances, design and style, but to treat both at the same time would only reduce clarity and create possible confusion.

More clearly still, hair for example is likely “designed” in genetic code and changing it’s colour ( element ) or shape ( element ) after the fact is styling hair and not designing hair. Hair stylists stylize hair. Chair stylists stylize chairs. Not that a new chair design isn’t possible. The distinction is not an absolute one, but a useful one to make when discussing the primary qualities of dilation strategies. My intended purpose is to supply useful information ( substance ) to a broad audience of designers that might include children, or others that may not think of themselves as designers as well as established design sophisticates who do, and use the latest design technologies. I have decided, here to separate the elements of style from the principle for the time being and style for the sake of style is avoided where ever possible

As another example, a potter working in a traditional way, may have no interest or use for information buried in several colour pallets and a compendium of contemporary styles. She may however, be interested in a simple, intuitive ( familiar even ) way to partition space and assign decorative elements a place and proportion. She may want a matrix for creating a motif and then from the same matrix choose or assign pattern, or symmetry operations or, adapt an existing design to a new task or a similar motif for several related works. A dilation strategy can do this for her and much more.

The concepts of Dilation Design Strategy work as well in the bush as they do in the board room; how designs are then stylized is up to designers to decide for themselves where ever they might be. “How to” is best not lost in the “style of” and things herein are minimally styled to convey primary ideas. The thing is simple and I have tried to keep it that way as much as possible.

I think and hope you will find a better integration of seemingly divergent organizing principles collected together in a single matrix of thought and method who’s creative possibilities are not limited to designer/ client relationships or any other sort of constraint. Dilation strategies are compatible with the latest technologies but, the strategy isn’t technology dependent. Design, as I understand it, belongs to all human beings, including designers. Stylists might also benefit from a deeper understanding of design.

Allen Patten

What is dilation?
What’s in the book


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