Note on Quaker oatmeal

“learn to feel as good or better about hte picture of the Quaker as you did about he real person supplying your oats before… who doesn’t feel good about Quakers? they’re dedicated to exactly the kind of town meetings and local sharing that a national oats company would seek to replace [sic]” — #33 of Scott Heiferman’s 101 notes on Douglas Rushkoff’s new book. Read ‘em all, or start at the end, the last 20 or so are the best!!!

Make PINK Not War

So the ‘real horror’ of ‘Make PINK Not War’ wasn’t that it said nothing, helped nothing, arbitrarily divorced modern struggles from historical ones, made everyone stupider, cost real money for fake pleasure. The sin didn’t belong to the teenager in the café – she’s gone now, I’m alone here with my preoccupations – nor even to those who made and sold her the bag, who were guilty only of greed and lack of imagination (which are of course the same thing). The sin was the belief that children are happy being belittled and infantilized, popular culture(s) that provided only meaningless choices – fashion – and force-fed children mere pleasure at the expense of real joy.

Waxy Banks rants about Hollister, stupid teenagers, and greed.

Design less

Today, the revolution is digital and the age is informational, but design confronts a similar crisis. We have amazing electronic tools at our disposal; culture has modernized at staggering, computer processed speeds. But the tools are abused and cultural change is stupefying. We embrace technology because it is there and embrace change for change’s sake. Our buildings, objects, and graphics suffer as a result. Things are over-designed because new tools must be exploited; here, design says “look what I can do!” Things are poorly-designed because new tools provide templates and shortcuts that are mistakenly substituted for design itself; here, design says “look how easy it is!”

To rectify this situation we must Design Less!

I couldn’t agree more. But Gabrielle Esperdy leaves her essay, Less Is More Again — A Manifesto, much more ambiguous then any manifesto I’ve read before. Here’s the ending:

Whether we are sitting at our computers, shopping at Target or Ikea, or walking down the street with our handheld devices, we are effortlessly, endlessly, unavoidably, inevitably, and mindlessly consuming design. Or to put it another way, we are consuming a thing — a website, a font, a screen, an icon, a t-shirt, a store, a sidewalk, a car, the list goes on and on — that someone, somewhere, sometime designed. If this is the designless world we welcome it and, with apologies to William Shakespeare, first thing we do, let’s kill all the designers.

The best way for me to make sense of this is that she’s saying a whole bunch of things at the same time. First, we’re obviously living in an age of a lot of folk design, especially folk digital design. Ze Frank brilliantly explored this issue with the this episode of the show. After a goofy song about a contest to find the ugliest MySpace page, he dives right in the philosophical deep end, suggesting that giving design tools to the masses brings into question the very essence of how aesthetic judgments will be made by the next generation.

In light of this, the reaction of many “serious” designers is to retreat into minimalism. (This has certainly been my instinct.) Note, just as a ferinstance, Pitchfork Media, which has just recently shed its grunge-n-small-fonts look for a sleek suit of light grays. Then again, is there really such a benefit to looking like every other site on the internet? And anyway, if the ubiquitization of design tools tends to make our environment more visually cluttered, over time this might desensitize us to said clutter, which would tend to make designers un-minimalize their work again.