Beauty & The Brain

The Week, my favorite news magazine, always features an art exhibit of the week. This week’s exhibit was so intriguing I wish I could squeeze in a trip to Baltimore before April. Hosted at the Walters Art Museum, and sponsored by the museum and the Zanvyl Krieger Mind-Brain Institute at the Johns Hopkins University, the exhibit is called “Beauty and the Brain: A Neural Approach to Aesthetics.” Its goal is to explore if humans are more drawn to some shapes than others, thus is there an ideal? And therefore, could some art be officially considered bad if it goes against the findings? The exhibit’s main image of study is Jean Arp’s Woman of Delos and 25 computer generated images–variations in size and form. At the museum, visitors don 3D glasses, look at the images, and note which they like best. Mary Carole McCauley of the Baltimore Sun calls it “equal parts art exhibit and science experiment.”  All of this is part of the study of neuroesthetics, “a new approach to the neural basis of the aesthetic experience” (

In my role as a designer, I think the findings of study will be fascinating. Will it mean there’s more to a client’s choosing one option over another other? More, of course, than the classic “I just don’t like that one.” Will it mean there are decisions I can make when designing that will make audiences more drawn or more likely to remember a piece? For now, we must wait, but I’m setting an iCal reminder. I’ll check back with this exhibit in 6 months to see if any conclusions have been made.

The Week magazine, February 26, 2010
The Walters Art Museum,
Header image from, credited to Adler & Conkright Fine Art, New York

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