Ob-Jessions: Consider This

By: Philip Wood

In a recent article, the head of design for Ikea, Marcus Engman, spoke of the end of storage, a seeming blasphemy from the Swedes who have, if not invented the category then certainly flat packed it and made it avail able from Bogotá to Boise. Engman suggests that our urbanizing world offers us less room for storage and that as our belongings such as music, books and movies dematerialize into a digitized cloud we have fewer things to store. Thus, our less cluttered homes will become dedicated to displaying the things that we choose to remain. At the risk of being a part of some IKEA PR stunt to sell more glass-fronted cabinets, I thought this was an interesting location to start this article as it’s a profound statement coming from someone whose taste and ideas, presumably more than most, affects the way that many live at home.

This reduction of things got me thinking about the recent phenomenon that is Mari Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and what may be a movement towards creating a more serene domestic landscape. His message is less about simply tidying up, and more that the true consideration for the space one inhabits actually comes from the knowledge that our environment affects us as much as we affect it. Although the act of tidying up is a cathartic, my notion of tidying up a space moves more towards the considered approach of Leonard Koren. Engman suggests we may be moving into a time where the consideration of the things in our life is more valuable than the mere quantity of them. This consideration is at the heart of what I would loosely call good design. In many ways design has been thought of as an exercise in style and product differentiation. From adding tail fins to cars in the 1950s to the alternate colors to consumer electronics in the 1990s. Much like the word fashion, design is regularly misused as a marketing persuasion to make our consumer world turn on its axis. This narrowing of our understanding of design, ironically, is occurring at a time when the world around us is becoming ever more manufactured.
 
This strange inverse proportionality should be cause for our concern. Yet, it may signal a good moment for us to jettison or put aside the word design entirely and pick up another with less limitations. This is where I think the word “considered” is a useful proxy. The analogues in graphic design with its knowledge of the white space around a component being as important as the mark itself, or in music where the space between the notes not only support but define the sound, are both examples of the importance of considering space in the bigger picture.
 
Whilst design seems to infer an addition, a creation, the word “considered” almost requires a pause, a step back, a moment of reflection and that’s where our real opportunity lies. I’m not calling for minimalism against maximum but for more consideration. Consider that which is around you, that which reflects you and therefore design your space, and your life accordingly.

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Philip Wood is a practicing cultural critic, creative director, designer and furniture maker based in San Francisco. Each issue, he shares an untold story of objects, why it makes sense to take a closer look at them and how they can have resonance for what surrounds us in our personal spaces. 

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