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Design: 2 films and ramblings

Just finished watching Objectified

The speaker is Rob Walker who writes the Consumed column at the NYT. This short excerpt does not contain the most interesting insight I think he brought to this film which was that when people buy a car (for instance) it is not so much that they are trying to project an image but that they are communicating with a self image. They are resonating with the product rather than using the product to promote themselves.

The designers for the most part are quite thoughtful and articulate about the place of design (and designed objects) in this world, and as one participant noted – in contrast to so many other fields, and considering how pervasive design is in our environment, we are generally quite inarticulate about it.

Art and Copy, another must watch, is about advertising as art and as a moral enterprise. As they say, most of it is crap, but most of everything is crap. These are some of the best and brightest in the field and it shows that this too can be honourable.

But back to design in general.

One way in which I as a consumer (and if there is me there must be others) am not being served is by the tendency toward multiple functions in devices. I understand the arguments for this but I have a few against.

1. Typically a good quality single function good will perform that function better than a multi-function device can.

2. The more functions a device has the more can go wrong and when one goes wrong it could threaten the others. A cell might be able to do almost everything you need but if it goes down…Also the more functions something has the more I have to scroll through to get to the one I need. Or they just take up space.

3. This is the crucial one and I have harped on about this before. I think to really appreciate an object or function there should be times you are separate from it. When you use something whether it be a couch or espresso machine or phone, you should be aware of it – a kind of object mindfulness. Multi-function devices seem to promote a distracted, always connected but not quite connected, quality.

I like to live in a world where when I listen to music its what most of my brain is occupied doing. I am not a purist (I have written, emailed, surfed, and skyped simultaneously on occasion) but I do believe that a greater richness of life can be gotten from appreciating the discrete. Using my single function espresso machine with a separate grinder involves me in the making of a coffee more than a machine that does it all. That coffee will taste better to me even if by all objective measures it tastes the same as it would out of a all purpose machine.

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