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The documentary film ObjectifiedW is all about how we, in the past decades, have ‘objectified’ our lives. It’s about what genuinely good design includes, for example: good design is aesthetic design, good design will make a product understandable and good design is long-lived. Though my personal favorite is: “Good design is as little design as possible.”
Actually the documentary is about a lot of stuff regarding design and products, anyone can understand the concepts that are being explored and if you have a small interest for products and design it's highly recommended.
At one point the narrator was telling how people always want something different from what they have. Then a designer came up telling that we don’t want our three-year-old phones anymore; in fact, we would be most pleased if we had five new phones within these three years. And this is what the cellphone (and other businesses) point their marketing at. Of course, this isn’t only valid for phones. If we see a nice new chair in the window of a furniture store we think: “Hmmm, that kitchen chair, isn’t it ready to be replaced?”. Or when we walk by a fashion store we think: “That pullover is so much cooler than the one I’m wearing right now!”, but the fun thing is that, if you buy the pull, you’ll find yourself in the exact same situation sooner or later.
When I walked the street yesterday after seeing the movie I figured that I am part of a generation that has got this ‘replacement drive’ much stronger than any other. I was visiting this exhibition about how people spent their off-time in the pre-TV-era and they played with games that seemed to last for forever and they knitted with knit pins that had the same eternal life. My generation is counting down until the next generation of game consoles is released, the 360 is getting pretty standardized, right?
Are we ever happy with the stuff we have? I wondered. Probably not, at least: not with all the stuff we have. Otherwise the iPhone wouldn’t be such a huge success. I agree, some objects such as phones, computers and other electronics are more subject to this law of want than others. But still, if we read or hear about a washing machine that doesn’t damage your clothes it starts to itch. Whenever we walk through a store we look at the items they sell and we imagine what it would be like to own it. In some cases we come to the conclusion that the object would enrich our lives, that the thing would make us happier human beings. Often though, this is not true.
If I buy an external hard drive for my computer I don’t become a happier person, I just become a person who has a computer that can store more stuff. As a matter of fact I’m still the same person I was before the growth in memory. Of course exceptions are at hand, if you’re an independent film artist you need space to store your flicks (of course you want the best quality possible) and then an external hard drive can come in handy.
Now you can say: “And what about that time I bought a new car, the next morning I woke up and thought: “Oh my, I’m the lucky owner of a [insert random nice car here]“” Sure, you went for a drive, inhaled the smell of new car and tried to put the motor to an extreme. But a few months later the smell started to wear of and all of a sudden you weren’t the fasted at the traffic light anymore. And it goes like this with a lot of things.
In Objectified Bill Moggridge talks about how very few objects get better after usage. As an example he has a project of his own, the GRiD Compass, one of the first laptops designed. He tells that, as you use it for a while, small pieces of the laptop’s coating get scattered of and that the magnesium of which it’s made becomes visible. In the movie Moggridge says that he’d like it if people grew “a little more fond of products over time”.
And with that thought I would like to end. So get out that old GameBoy of yours and give that record player another spin, because all that stuff you want replaced isn’t so bad after all.