The Seductive Danger of the New, New Thing

By Regina Connell.

I’ve long been an admirer of David Trubridge. At first it was just his designs. But then after we did our interview with him, I developed a whole new respect for his way of building a good business around craft. And now, over the last few years, I’ve realized that it’s also his thoughtfulness about the larger issues of design, making, consumption and the material world.

What's the point?

What’s the point? Image via David Trubridge.

David keeps a blog on Medium to host his musings, and one in particular struck home with me. Entitled New or Novel? it’s a smart meditation into the state of design today.

Living in the Bay Area, it seems that our “brand” is innovation and newness, #brightshinyobjects (that hashtag is meant as a bit of irony). Working as I do in the general world of communications and marketing and PR, it’s all about what’s new. You can have the best, most interesting story in the world, but if there’s no product launch to tie it to, it doesn’t sell to mainstream media. And don’t even get me started on kickstarter.

And the broader world of industrial (which includes domestic) design is absolutely complicit in this. The reason design is all the rage (non-design companies now have “chief design officers”) is that corporate types have looked at the success of Apple, and concluded that “design sells.” And that isn’t all bad: we want well-designed things in our lives.

But it’s gone further than that, beyond good design to design that’s about showing off, for the sake of showing off, not beauty or function.

What’s particularly corrosive, David notes, is “the way this ‘brightshinyobject’ mentality has come to direct the design process, as a novelty, as an eye-catching gimmick.”  Yes “design sells,” with all its attendant material crises, but something has gone wrong with the design process itself.

As David says, much of the design world is, these days, all about cleverness. What it is not as much about is imagination and beauty and heart. Read on for more. And engage: read other parts of his blog, read this one, and think deeply about what it means to create—not just for the creative process itself but for the material world as a whole.

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