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On 01/15/2016
Having experiences to me, as opposed to consuming products, is the new luxury – especially the experience of immersion

How Design is Changing

Recently I heard Cheryl Durst, the President of IIDA speak on a topic called Design NOW. I wanted to share her thoughts, some of which are below, and expound on them with my experiences.

I believe in design as reassurance; communicating simplicity is key now. Our brains crave simplicity in this hurried digital world. We have a yearning for privacy, sanctuary, or alone time, to be with our own thoughts so we can actually think.

Thinking is the new luxury—in our world we are always doing. As we stop to think, our blood pressure actually goes down.

Designers in particular, need time to think and dwell on what we observe and see so our brains can wander and be creative. One of the most difficult things in my everyday work life is the amount of interruptions I get. I read that your IQ drops when you multitask!

My favorite thinking times are walking or running near my home along the Norwalk Islands.

Nature is so calming, especially when I bring my Brittany Spaniel on walks, he loves it and I love his joy in nature.

I use other thinking or alone time when I plan design inspiration days in NYC to see new shops, hip hoods, galleries, and museums. My favorite place is the Frieze Art Fair every summer or seeing Artesanias de Colombia when I travel to Bogotá on business.

Cheryl Durst presented these ideas:

“What we Design for Now:

  • Memories
  • Dreams
  • Lifestyles
  • Recharge
  • Immersion (experiences)
  • Adrenaline rush (vacations)
  • Uniqueness
  • Customization (for the products we want)
  • Objects of desire”

Since I design for commercial interiors, I am currently thinking of uniqueness through materiality that can offer comfort and tactile references to the natural world.

For example, a textile mill I sell for has been developing a faux wool product, which is super hot. But what I’m really selling is the memory of that cozy blanket while you hang out at night lounging, or the soothing qualities of a baby blanket.

Customization is also top of mind. As someone with a bohemian style and personality, I’ve always been attracted to artisanal products. Being able to customize your own jeans or your own sofa is key.

I’m always searching out new artists for handmade jewelry or accessories for clients or myself.

Durst breaks down some reasons why we continue to design:

“Why we Design:

  • To make a contribution
  • Ego satisfaction
  • Dream Fulfillment
  • Create a quality of life
  • Build a better world
  • Leave a benefit”

With these words in mind, I believe that right now design is so important as a discipline. All consumers should be exposed to it in all their products, and everyone has a right to nice design at affordable prices.

Durst continued, “Design NOW” is:

  • Critical Implications
  • Problem solving
  • Asking questions
  • Makes us think
  • Design as a tool of communication
  • Provocation
  • For how the world could be

“Words that Matter:

  • Design
  • Culture
  • Humanity
  • Resilience
  • Authenticity
  • Integrity
  • Experience (this is the new luxury)
  • Nostalgia – this is huge, like Mad Men, harkening back to previous times
  • Wellbeing
  • Bespoke (moments and things created just for us)
  • Resonant/Relevant
  • Purpose & meaning”

Having experiences to me, as opposed to consuming products, is the new luxury – especially the experience of immersion in a new culture or city. Good design can be an experience.

I like to combine experiences with bespoke moments and authenticity by traveling to meet new artists or craftspeople. I like the experience of meeting them, hearing their inspiration and their process of creating.

For example, while I was working in Bogotá recently, I fell in love with a cool wooden sunglass designer and went to see his manufacturing facility. He had this green inspiration of using leftover rubber and cardboard shipping tubes for his packaging as well as the non-dyed, natural wood frames. 

So to pull all of these thoughts together, I’ll leave you with a quote. Li Edelkoort, one of the world’s top trend forecasters, perhaps summarizes these concepts best, “The world is currently obsessed with design and the discipline is gaining importance every day. Design is taking its rightful place next to art and is fast becoming the DISCIPLINE OF THIS CENTURY.”

I couldn’t agree more.