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The empty promises of Marie Kondo and the craze for minimalism | Life and style | The Guardian
“From the ‘KonMari method’ to Apple’s barely-there design philosophy, we are forever being urged to declutter and simplify our lives. But does minimalism really make us any happier? By Kyle Chayka”



“The most famous proponent of minimalism – or at least minimalism as a lifehack – was probably Steve Jobs. In a famous photograph from 1982, Jobs sits on the floor of his living room. He was in his late 20s at the time, and Apple was making $1bn a year. He had just bought a large house in Los Gatos, California, but he kept it totally empty. In Diana Walker’s photo, he is seen cross-legged on a single square of carpet, holding a mug, wearing a simple dark sweater and jeans – his prototypical uniform. A tall lamp by his side casts a perfect circle of light. “This was a very typical time,” Jobs later remembered. “All you needed was a cup of tea, a light and your stereo, you know, and that’s what I had.” Not for him, the usual displays of wealth or status. In the photo he looks content.

Yet the image of simplicity is deceptive. The house Jobs bought was huge for a young, single man with no use for that excess space. Wired magazine later discovered that the stereo setup resting in the corner would have cost $8,200. The lone lamp that illuminates the scene was made by Tiffany. It was a valuable antique, not a utilitarian tool.

Not only is simplicity often less simple than it looks, it can also be much less practical than it seems. People often conflate the phrase “form follows function” – the idea that the external appearance of an object or building should reflect the way that it works – with the self-conscious appearance of minimalism, as in Jobs’s house or the design of Apple’s iPhone. But Jobs’s empty living room was not particularly usable. Instead of the mantra that “form follows function”, Jobs echoes a slogan that could be glimpsed not long ago in one upscale New York shop front: “Fewer, better.” Possess the best things and only the best things, if only you can afford them. It was better to go without a couch than buy one that wasn’t perfect. That commitment to taste might be rarified, but it probably did not endear Jobs to his family, who might have preferred a place to sit.

Apple devices have gradually simplified in appearance over time under designer Jony Ive, who joined the company in 1992, which is why they are so synonymous with minimalism. By 2002, the Apple desktop computer had evolved into a thin, flat screen mounted on an arm connected to a rounded base. Then, into the 2010s, the screen flattened even more and the base vanished until all that was left were two intersecting lines, one with a right angle for the base and another, straight, for the screen. It sometimes seems, as our machines become infinitely thinner and wider, that we will eventually control them by thought alone, because touch would be too dirty, too analogue.

Does this all really constitute simplicity? Apple devices have only a few visual qualities. But it is also an illusion of efficiency. The company strives to make its phones thinner and removes ports – see headphone jacks – any chance it gets. The iPhone’s function depends on an enormous, complex, ugly superstructure of satellites and undersea cables that certainly are not designed in pristine whiteness. Minimalist design encourages us to forget everything a product relies on and imagine, in this case, that the internet consists of carefully shaped glass and steel alone.

The contrast between simple form and complex consequences brings to mind what the British writer Daisy Hildyard called “the second body” in her 2017 book of the same name. The phrase describes the alienated presence that we feel when we are aware of both our individual physical bodies and our collective causation of environmental damage and climate change. While we calmly walk down the street, watch a film or go food shopping, we are also the source of pollution drifting across the Pacific or a tsunami in Indonesia. The second body is the source of an unplaceable anxiety: the problems are undeniably our fault, even though it feels as if we cannot do anything about them because of the sheer difference in scale.

Similarly, we might be able to hold the iPhone in our hands, but we should also be aware that the network of its consequences is vast: server farms absorbing massive amounts of electricity, Chinese factories where workers die by suicide, devastated mud pit mines that produce tin. It is easy to feel like a minimalist when you can order food, summon a car or rent a room using a single brick of steel and silicon. But in reality, it is the opposite. We are taking advantage of a maximalist assemblage. Just because something looks simple does not mean it is; the aesthetics of simplicity cloak artifice, or even unsustainable excess.

This slickness is part of minimalism’s marketing pitch. According to one survey in a magazine called Minimalissimo, you can now buy minimalist coffee tables, water carafes, headphones, sneakers, wristwatches, speakers, scissors and bookends, each in the same monochromatic, severe style familiar from Instagram, and often with pricetags in the hundreds, if not thousands. What they all seem to offer is a kind of mythical just-rightness, the promise that if you just consume this one perfect thing, then you won’t need to buy anything else in the future – at least until the old thing is upgraded and some new level of possible perfection is found.”
kyleshayka  minimalism  2020  life  living  materialism  consumerism  maximalism  climatechange  environment  infrastructure  apple  mariekondo  stevejobs  cleanliness  clutter  happiness  konmarimethod  austerity  freedom  distraction  attention  economics  joshuabecker  courneycarver  2008  2011  capitalism  therapy  simplicity  society  civilization  excess  comodification  possessions  stuff  haording  joshuafieldsmillburn  ryannicodemus  2010  2017  ownership  mobility  lifestyle  marketing  perfection  disposability  design  jonyive  form  function  formfollowsfunction  efficiency  daisyhildyard  shopping  instagram  aesthetics  asceticism 
15 days ago by robertogreco
crap futures — A Crap Futures Manifesto
"Challenge #1: reverse this statement

‘We must shift America from a needs, to a desires culture, people must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.’

Paul Mazur, Lehman Brothers, 1927

Challenge #2: reclaim the means - stop obsessing with the ends

‘Modern anthropology … opposes the utilitarian assumption that the primitive chants as he sows seed because he believes that otherwise it will not grow, the assumption that his economic goal is primary, and his other activities are instrumental to it. The planting and the cultivating are no less important than the finished product. Life is not conceived as a linear progression directed to, and justified by, the achievement of a series of goals; it is a cycle in which ends cannot be isolated, one which cannot be dissected into a series of ends and means.’

John Carroll

Challenge #3: (as things become increasingly automated) facilitate action not apathy

‘[W]hen it becomes automatic (on the other hand) its function is fulfilled, certainly, but it is also hermetically sealed. Automatism amounts to a closing-off, to a sort of functional self-sufficiency which exiles man to the irresponsibility of a mere spectator.’

Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects

Challenge #4: bring an end to this vacuous celebrity designer BS

‘My juicer is not meant to squeeze lemons; it is meant to start conversations.’

Philippe Starck

Challenge #5: interrupt legacy thinking and product lineages

‘All inventions and innovations, by definition, represent 
an advance in the art beyond existing base lines. Yet, most advances, particularly in retrospect, appear essentially incremental, evolutionary. If nature makes no sudden leaps, neither it would appear does technology.’

Robert Heilbroner

Challenge #6: rather than feed the illusion of invincibility, work from the reality of uncertainty and transience

‘Everywhere gold glimmered in the half-light, transforming this derelict casino into a magical cavern from the Arabian Nights tales. But it held a deeper meaning for me, the sense that reality itself was a stage set that could be dismantled at any moment, and that no matter how magnificent anything appeared, it could be swept aside into the debris of the past.’

J.G. Ballard, The Miracles of Life

Challenge #7: set aside the easier work of critique and take up the more difficult challenge of proposing viable alternatives

‘It is true that I can better tell you what we don’t do than what we do do.’

William Morris, News from Nowhere

Challenge #8: ask yourself (before putting things in the world): am I qualified to play God?

‘It’s not right to play God with masses of people. To be God you have to know what you’re doing. And to do any good at all, just believing you’re right and your motives are good isn’t enough.’

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven

Challenge #9: design ecologically

‘One merges into another, groups melt into ecological groups until the time when what we know as life meets and enters what we think of as non-life: barnacle and rock, rock and earth, earth and tree, tree and rain and air. And the units nestle into the whole and are inseparable from it … all things are one thing and one thing is all things – plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.’

John Steinbeck, The Sea of Cortez

Challenge #10: adopt a khadi mentality

‘True progress lies in the direction of decentralization, both territorial and functional, in the development of the spirit of local and personal initiative, and of free federation from the simple to the compound, in lieu of the present hierarchy from the centre to the periphery.’

Pyotr Kropotkin

Challenge #11: be patient for the quiet days

‘Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.’

Arundhati Roy

Challenge #12: start building the future you want, with or without technology

‘People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it. Predicting the future is much too easy, anyway. You look at the people around you, the street you stand on, the visible air you breathe, and predict more of the same. To hell with more. I want better.’

Ray Bradbury, Beyond 1984: The People Machines"
manifestos  crapfutures  paulmazur  desires  needs  anthropology  johncarroll  means  ends  jeanbaudrillard  apathy  action  philippestarck  celebrity  legacy  robertheilbroner  invention  innovation  evolution  invincibility  jgballard  uncertainty  transience  ephemeral  ephemerality  critique  williammorris  viability  making  ursulaleguin  ecology  environment  johnsteinbeck  khadi  decentralization  function  functionality  arundhatiroy  patience  quiet  raybradbury  future  futurism  technology  utopia  resistance  peterkropotkin 
november 2016 by robertogreco
The Product » Manifesto.
"Manifesto.

We Love People
We *only* design for people. We believe that people are interesting, capable and intelligent. We also believe that they are complicated, rational, and emotional beings. We think that anticipation and fascination is the key to creating challenging and interesting situations.

Zeitgeist
When we do what we do, we are well aware of the fact, that all we do is deeply embedded into some kind of context. This context often is called zeitgeist. We like the notion of zeitgeist. We also like to believe, that we are aware of zeitgeist and are capable of drawing from its creative power.

Networks
We never work alone. The projects we do almost always involve a wide range of expertise. We don’t know everything. If we feel that we need support for certain aspects of a project we sure know someone in our network who backs us up.

Fascination and Anticipation
A reoccurring theme in our work is the concept of fascination. We believe that creating fascination is key to a successful piece of work. People who are fascinated about something develop curiosity and are willing to invest time, thought and passion. Another theme is anticipation. Only when people believe that they can anticipate the outcome of an action, they are willing to get involved; no matter if their anticipation is meet or challenged.

Comprehensible versus Admirable
Making someone understand is a beautiful goal. We are proud to think of ourselves as designers who are able to use a variety of materials, technologies and disciplines to make people understand. There is a flipside to understanding though; it can be disenchanting too. It is like finding out that David Copperfield slowly rotates a room to create the illusion that the statue of liberty has been removed from the face of new york. We believe that it is vital to keep a subtle balance between the comprehensible and the incomprehensible. A grain of incomprehensibility leaves room for admiration.

Function versus Emotion
We believe that we have grown beyond the idea that the quality of design can be measured by its functional value. We certainly value functional designs but we are aware of the fact that a piece of work can be quite spectacular yet dysfunctional. Sometimes we even value the dysfunctional more than the functional aspects as they are often the source of poetic situations, empathy and emotion. Take for example cats and dogs. Research has shown that cats are perceived as being more intelligent than dogs, because they frequently disobey orders; an obviously dysfunctional behavior. We like to play with both. By the way are you a dog- or cat-person?"
via:ablerism  manifestos  design  humanism  fascination  anticipation  function  emotion  admiration  comprehension  networks  zeitgeist 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Ibraaz Talks: Trevor Paglen on Aesthetics | Ibraaz
"Ibraaz Talks is a series of specially curated conversations with artists, curators and writers. Participants are invited to respond to a particular issue or keyword that addresses formal and conceptual issues affecting both their personal practices and contemporary visual culture. Initiated at Art Dubai in 2013, this latest series was staged at SALT Beyoğlu during the opening days of the 13th Istanbul Biennial. In this talk, artist Trevor Paglen and Ibraaz Senior Editor Omar Kholeif ask the question: why aesthetics? The discussion considers the notion of aesthetics in the context of a practice that often deals with ideas of anti-aesthetics. The talk takes into account a project Paglen presented during the Istanbul Biennial with Protocinema titled Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite (Design 4; Build 3) (2013) – a 4-metre tall model for an orbital spacecraft, which considers how such a functional object might operate in a non-functional context."
ibraaztalks  trevorpaglen  2013  aesthetics  objects  function  art  anti-aesthetics  via:javierarbona  economics  politics  taste  relationships  class  inequality  time  mortality  space  satellites  immortality  elitism 
october 2013 by robertogreco
naffidy: Andrea Zittel -----"These things I know for sure"
"1. It is a human trait to organize things into categories. Inventing categories creates an illusion that there is an overriding rationale in the way that the word works.

2. Surfaces that are "easy to clean" also show dirt more. In reality a surface that camouflages dirt is much more practical than one that is easy to clean.

3. Maintenance takes time and energy that can sometimes impede other forms or progress such as learning about new things.

4. All materials ultimately deteriorate and show signs of wear. It is therefore important to create designs that will look better after years of distress.

5. A perfect filling system can sometimes decrease efficiency. For instance, when letters and bills are filed away too quickly, it is easy to forget to respond to them.

6. Many "progressive" designs actually hark back towards a lost idea of nature or a more "original form."

7. Ambiguity in visual design ultimately leads to a greater variety of functions than designs that are functionally fixed.

8. No matter how many options there are, it is human nature to always narrow things down to two polar, yet inextricably linked choices.

9. The creation of rules is more creative than the destruction of them. Creation demands a higher level of reasoning and draws connections between cause and effect. The best rules are never stable or permanent, but evolve, naturally according to content or need.

10. What makes us feel liberated is not total freedom, but rather living in a set of limitations that we have created and prescribed for ourselves.

11. Things that we think are liberating can ultimately become restrictive, and things that we initially think are controlling can sometimes give us a sense of comfort and security.

12. Ideas seem to gestate best in a void--- when that void is filled, it is more difficult to access them. In our consumption-driven society, almost all voids are filled, blocking moments of greater clarity and creativity. Things that block voids are called "avoids."

13. Sometimes if you can't change a situation, you just have to change the way you think about the situation.

14. People are most happy when they are moving towards something not quite yet attained (I also wonder if this extends as well to the sensation of physical motion in space. I believe that I am happier when I am in a plane or car because I am moving towards an identifiable and attainable goal.)

15. What you own, owns you.

16. Personal truths are often perceived as universal truths. For instance it is easy to imagine that a system or design works well for oneself will work for everyone else."

[Also (only 1-14) printed here: http://books.google.com/books/about/Andrea_Zittel.html?id=-uZiQgAACAAJ ]
andreazittel  criticalspace  progressive  human  humans  sorting  dichotomy  dichotomies  categorization  patternfinding  patterns  generalizations  generalization  surfaces  maintenance  time  art  learning  filingsystems  design  rules  constraints  personaltruths  universaltruths  truths  happiness  movement  progress  attainability  goals  perspective  comfort  security  clarity  creativity  freedom  creation  choice  polarization  ambiguity  function 
july 2012 by robertogreco
carsten nicolai: 'anti reflex'
"'anti' is a regular geometric form which represents systematic thinking and the interrelationship between mathematics, optics, art and philosophy. in appearance, it is a distorted cube, truncated at the top and bottom to obtain rhombic and triangular faces. the object reacts to the magnetic fields of bodies, enabling interaction with the visitor, while all of its mechanisms are hidden within. derived from artist albrecht dürers engraving 'melancholia i' (1514), 'anti's' black, light-absorbent surface and monolith-like crystalline shape confronts the viewer, trying both to mask its form and to disguise its function, thereby absorbing information."
art  sculpture  science  philosophy  interactive  matter  function  albrechtdürer  geometry  math  mathematics  optics 
may 2010 by robertogreco
The Technium: Collections of the Material Subconscious
"if you are going to collect something that you want to be significant in future, collect things that everyone ignores now. Stuff that is too insignificant to save, that no one in their right mind would save. These "subconcious" things are ones that will be most valuable in future. Not Star Wars action figures, but fruit stickers. Not Barbie doll outfits but lids of take-out beverages. Not mint condition Chevy cars, but bread bag ties. Because they are not trying to be anything other than what they are - any beauty they contain is functional - they also transmit subtexts of their time. The "meaning" of the placement of the ridges & holes in take-out beverage lids reveal all kinds of things about how & where these beverages are being sold & consumed. The designs will tell folks in the future far more about our lives today than tiny models of Darth Vader.

& if history is any guide, we'll find their functional beauty far more everlasting than the fashions of more conscious designs."
kevinkelly  fuure  history  artifacts  fruit  fruitstickers  mundane  beauty  function  form  design  longevity  lasting  meaning  memory  suptext  time  archaeology 
april 2010 by robertogreco
The Situationists and the City; A Reader
"The Situationist International (SI), led by Guy Debord and central to the Paris uprising in May 1968, published many incendiary texts on politics and art in the journal Internationale Situationniste. One central theme to their work was rethinking the city: from a site for routine consumption and work to a utopia that breaks down barriers between function and play. In this essential volume Tom McDonough collects together all of the SI’s key essays on urbanism and the city.

The book will be strikingly illustrated by images that were core to the SI project. It will include such key texts as “The Theory of Dérive,” “Formulary for a New Urbanism,” and many previously untranslated texts, including those that came out of the Situationists’ collaboration with Henri Lefebvre."
books  situationist  via:javierarbona  philosophy  space  cities  contradiction  play  function  utopia  tommcdonough  urban  urbanism 
march 2010 by robertogreco
waterwall tanks
"rainwater reservoirs are nothing new, but the waterwall fatboy manages to hold 650 gallons of water in
homes  housing  design  materials  water  function  storage 
november 2009 by robertogreco
Design - The Demise of ‘Form Follows Function’ - NYTimes.com
"Misused though Sullivan’s quote has been, his point, that the style of architecture should reflect its purpose, made sense at the time, and continued to do so for much of the last century, not just for buildings, but objects too. That was then. Thanks to digital technology, designers can squeeze so many functions into such tiny containers that there is more computing power in a basic cellphone (not a fancy model, like a BlackBerry or iPhone, just a cheap one) than at NASA’s headquarters when it began in 1958. That is why the appearance of most digital products bears no relation to what they do."
design  usability  function  technology  ux  simplicity  functionality  appearance 
june 2009 by robertogreco
mattbalara.com : “ What’s Design Mean to You? Interview with Howard Rheingold” Jul. 28, 2008
"A little bit of Howard’s take on design: In the broad sense it means thinking about what the function or purpose of things or processes are, and translating that into action."
howardrheingold  education  learning  design  schooldesign  curriculum  function  purpose  process  collaboration  schools  software  socialsoftware 
july 2008 by robertogreco
PopMatters | Columns | Rob Horning | Marginal Utility | The Design Imperative
"We are consigned to communicating through design, but it’s an impoverished language that can only say one thing: “That’s cool.” Design ceases to serve our needs, and the superficial qualities of useful things end up cannibalizing their functionality. The palpability of the design interferes, distracts from the activity an item is supposed to be helping you do. The activity becomes subordinate to the tools. You become the tool."
design  critique  criticism  function  form  utility  popular  aesthetics  retail  target  consumerism  consumer  society  competition  popularity  symbolism  industrial  products  customization  hipsters  marketing  image  personality  handmade  books  possessions  materialism  objects  fashion  style  commerce  variety  hipsterism 
january 2008 by robertogreco

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