How We are Seduced by the Objects Around Us

Just finished reading: The Language of Things: Deyan Sudjic.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in asking 'WHY?' more!

Things are everywhere and consume us. Stuff clutters our daily lives, pouring out of our homes and into our loft or garages - only to be popped onto eBay and into someone else collection of stuff.

I happily change my phone every 2 years, I have more clothes and shoes than I need and have shelves full of old stuff I just love and cant throw away due to something of an emotional attachment. Yet I still want new things. Why?

 I had never questioned why until reading this book, everyone else is doing it, and nothing had ever sparked that thought until now. Curiosity in objects is good and there are a lot of interesting object, but have we all become numb to the consumerism, we constantly discard objects with so much life and use left.


Below are the quote I have loved from the book, brought together for my future reference and to aid my ponderings.

Todays Objects -  "they are calculatingly designed to achieve an emotional response" (Sudjic, 2009, pp. 8 – 9) This is true for the greetings card industry - Designing a product with a message, giving the receiver more than just a mug. Thinking about the emotional message you want to trigger was a key part of my design process.

“possessions that stayed with us for decades could be understood as mirroring our experiences of time passing. Now our relationship with new possessions seems so much emptier... Desire fades long before an object grows old." (Sudjic, 2009, pp. 18 – 19) While examining the wear and tear of an antique object, you can often further understand the journey and story of that object. Trying to decipher how these marks were made of why this surface is more worn than others gives you clues to its history.

"Product design has come to resemble a form of plastic surgery, something like a Botox injection to the forehead" (Sudjic, 2009, pp. 8 – 9) "each new generation is superseded so fast that there is never time to develop a relationship between owner and object" (Sudjic, 2009, pp. 21)
This is true for a lot of the objects in modern society. A mobile phone is the item kept on your person the most, yet wear and tear  - cracked screen or chipped edge gives away nothing of the story.

to help develop the understadning of where this mass produced design has emerged, The development of ‘design’ is discussed briefly by sudjic -" for Morris, what he saw as the joy of labour was the key to creating meaningful everyday possessions." (Sudjic, 2009, pp. 23) In contrast to the view of Loewy, who "offered a slicker and smoother version of what design could be. He turned pencil sharpeners into fetish objects, used as props to define the modern workplace" (Sudjic, 2009, pp. 26) "following in Loewy's footsteps today is Starch... Capable of transforming anonymous domestic objects with his signature"

"Rams is driven by a sense of the moral purpose of design...he dreamed of objects that became timeless by eliminating the superfluous, reflecting intelligible rigour rather than trying too hard to please." (Sudjic, 2009, pp. 30) Understandable virtues, high moral standing; Ram’s products are honest.

"Design is no longer based primarily on mechanical models...what the designer is left to deal with is the surface, the appearance and semantic shades of meaning that allow us to interpret and understand what an object is trying to tell us about itself...they turn the designer into a storyteller." (Sudjic, 2009, pp. 34)  Can years of –love, use and wear be replicated though a design process? Our understanding of an object is being given to us, the objects story is prewritten and boxed up with the product ready for purchase.

"Design in all its manifestations is the DNA of an industrial society... It's the code that we need to explore if we are to stand a chance of understanding the nature of the modern world...its a kind of language, and it's a reflection of emotional and cultural values." (Sudjic, 2009, pp. 49) Design has become the story. In our fast-pasted world of objects which have no time to accrue their own. Consumers buy into pre-existing stories and language.
Yet too much made up ‘story’ and the product becomes dishonest and fake. For me there is nothing worse that crap design that adds to the endless stuff we accumulate.

For design that has a lasting impact Sudjic says, it must become or reference an archetype. Archetypes are objects such as the clock, the mini, the moulton and the angle poise.  All designs based on a combination of technical innovation and formal invention.” (Sudjic, 2009, pp. 57) the invention goes someway to determine the design that in turn gives the design an authenticity and credibility.

It is not just how an object looks that is key to the creation of an archetype. A commanding archetype needs a form that can communicate what it does. What the user needs to do to make it work, but they can also offer the less specific comfort of a memory, and the complex attractions of absence of familiarity...even if our possession a do not age well, and we continually replace them, designs than evokes archetypes offer a consoling sense of continuity." (Sudjic, 2009, pp. 57) 

How then could I make something that is seductive, mood enhancing and yet honest?! Mass produced objects become different from each other as they age, and over time they start to acquire an aura, what ever the intention of the designer. It is this aura that gives the emotion attachment.

The iphone here is an interesting example. The design shifts only slightly enough to know it is the new model yet retaining its familiarity of form. I know an iphone when I see one along with most of the western world. “Apple actually managed to create a phone that’s so good it has become an archetype. And when things become archetypes, they become intrinsically less interesting to people who thrive on dissonance and disruption. That’s why the iPhone 5 got such a converse reaction from the tech press when it was revealed. It’s an exercise in precision and restraint, not a play for our wildest imaginations.” (Panzarino, 2012)

Sudjic, D. (2009) The Language of Things: Design, Luxury, Fashion, Art: How We are Seduced by the Objects Around Us. United Kingdom: Penguin Books Ltd

Panzarino, M. (2012) ‘TNW Review: iPhone 5 — Apple Creates an Archetype’,