Early in our development as designers, we realized that effective, successful design in any discipline depends on much more than a simple combination of shape, color and scale. Designing for lasting impact requires a considerable understanding of both human behavior and knowledge of what has previously been created.
Our ability to perceive meaning comes from two sources – instinctive reactions programmed by evolution, and memories from life experiences. Every act of recognition provokes primary and secondary perceptions tied to memories and instinctive associations. To create a design composition that transmits a message with accuracy and predictability to the largest body of intended observers, one must understand how visual patterns are recognized and what meanings are most universally understood by their association with familiar sources.
Cognitive Psychology teaches us that there are several basic reactions to pattern stimuli. According to Dr. Melvin Konner in his book, The Tangled Wing, studies by Jean Piaget, Jerome Kagan, Philip Zelazo, and others have demonstrated these categories of reaction to pattern stimuli:
- If an observed pattern is too similar to a familiar pattern stored in memory, then it will not arouse attention. We ignore it.
- If an observed pattern is not similar to any remembered patterns, then it will arouse attention. If, after examination, the pattern is still not understood, then it will create anxiety for the observer.
- If an observed pattern is partially familiar and partially dissimilar to remembered patterns, then it will arouse attention, and if the nature of the dissimilarity can be understood by extension from known patterns, then pleasure will be felt.
The biological reaction that induces pleasure is what induces our inclination to learn – our natural curiosity. We develop our potential to recognize and understand greater complexity and layers of meaning by incrementally building on familiar patterns. The power of designers to impart knowledge and satisfy basic emotional needs depends upon a sensitivity to what is familiar or dissimilar in order to attract interest and transmit an incrementally new idea. Who ever said our job would be easy?!
Rich Varda oversees an internal corporate team of 237 staff professionals that are responsible for maintaining and modifying the multiple Target store prototypes – including fixtures, store plans, interior design, architecture and engineering.
Before joining Target in 2001, Mr.Varda served as a Principal and lead designer at RSP Architects for three years and at Ellerbe Becket for 15 years. Projects where Mr. Varda led the design total over $1.5 billion in construction value. These include corporate offices, hotels, mixed-use centers, academic buildings and convention centers.
Prior to Target, Mr. Varda’s largest project was the Kingdom Centre for HRH Prince Al Waleed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, completed in 2002. This $750,000,000 mixed-use complex includes a Four Seasons Hotel, a three-level shopping mall and a 1,000 foot high, ‘world icon’, mixed-use tower.
Mr. Varda has received over 25 awards for design excellence from the American Institute of Architects and other industry programs. He holds an NCARB certificate and is a registered architect in 9 states.
He received a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from the University of Wisconsin and a Master of Architecture from the University of Minnesota. Most recently, Mr. Varda was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) – an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to the profession.