DESIGN IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA
Sometime in the next six weeks, public space will devolve into increments of six feet, and when that happens, what vibe will define the age? What will design be?
As shifts occur in our culture and in our economy and in our ideology, so do they occur in design. It won’t be too much longer until we are stepping back into the world. Emancipated from the help of our three year-old assistants and the persistence of aging, too comfortable sweatshirts, we will return to design, to lift the hearts of our clients, and to collectively and consciously slice and dice, parsing out people and space into acceptable islands of happy distance. Yet it is our conscious subconscious, a shadow collective, that actually speaks from the heart of the people, and it is this that will illustrate the zeitgeist of what we are experiencing, as it occurs in design.
We’ve left the posh, tufted velvet jewel tones and roundedness of yesteryear behind. We said goodbye to the hype, the overblown brights, pastels and patterning. We’ve discarded designs generated in an almost mirror to the economic overdrive of the eighties. Now with only glimmers of financial gain nabbed as jockey to a slingshot stock market, what will we turn to for comfort in the time of cholera?
The engine of Pinterest project imagery seems to have finally stalled out for the moment, currently running rampant in floral scene bread baking techniques, embossed cookies and flowers pressed like wax paper into pasta sheeting. This ‘sameness’ driver that formerly painted young, impressionable designer minds with thirty-one versions of a ten-inch round ball light, has quieted.
In a few weeks, public space will devolve into increments of six feet, and when that happens, what vibe will define the age? One could argue that the next fetch aesthetic could be guided by the idea of either inclusion or exclusion, depending on how you look at it. That people will feel most safe around people they know and that the already ramping trend to curation and membership would just continue as a Soho Housification of the world, a gently curated eclecticism built out of objects that remind me of my childhood home from the late seventies. Except that Soho House has created an internal engine of mimicry that is only an echo of the design world. It is a library mentality, not a collective, but a collection of people and object. Sameness clubs are only an echo of a culture. They lack true vitality.
To know what design vibes will emerge, we need to look at what has just happened to the world. We have generated a global, cultural agreement for a slow step. We have paused. As the earth takes a fresh breath of air for the first time in a long time, we are experiencing the first world-wide, collective mental break as a human race. Interesting things are happening here. We have abandoned the vapidity and righteousness of social media and have begun to use technology to get connected. Working from home, our managers have been forced to leave the factory mentality of direct oversight. Companies have been forced to look at how to create result over supervision. Everyone is calling their mother.
What does it all mean? I believe we are in an emergent unfolding process of becoming re-grounded. As we bunker down with one or two or three loved ones, we are at the same engaging in a greater community of shared experience with the entire world. It is a quieter engagement, less one of show and one that is more deeply interlinked with self. Mine, like many of you, is filled with more self-care, more attention to skin care, walks outside, more cooking, balanced with more global attention occurring as prolonged examination of national and international maps of viral occurrence.
If I had to guess the next design vibe, I would put my money on nature. Natural, rough edge chic has been shadowing the design world for the past twenty years. We’ve seen its simple flares of live edge slabs and hanging plants. While Wallpaper re-posts survivalist, architecturally superior tiny cabins in inaccessible and beautiful locations, a planetary voice for beauty to emerge from the natural world is growing. There is a cry for not seeming, but in being, and this is really an important distinction in design. I’ve been delighting in the addition of new images added to the web, new color palettes of rammed earth, a swell of super-adobe smurf domes, permaculture, proprietary materiality and visions for a natural planet.
Rather than have design occur like an eighties pair of air Jordan sneakers, or today’s adult equivalent, Golden Goose, rather than highlight the condition of’ I have it’, creating the dichotomy of ‘you don’t’, design can surpass Grimhelde’s mirror, escape the colonial echo of societal consumption and emerge in it’s highest form, which is to function as a touchpoint for human enlightenment, depth and compassion, embracing nature and our evolution in sacred space.