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I Hate Overdesign.

February 26, 2010

This is a sort of continuation of my suspicion that maybe I DON’T want layering of meaning, but slightly different.

While doing the Zirma book (as the snowstorm comes and a number of my projects have been necessarily put on hold because of a lack of good equipment and tools and my brain goes fallow! not enough exercise! it seems like the Zirma book was a fertile time of creativity and productive that will remain unmatched for a hot minute…) I realized how I hate overdesign.

Overdesign is when you make a book, you make a box for it and then you make a bag for it and then you make a bookmark for it and then you design a chair to sit in for reading it. Ha, ha. [My terminology.]

The worst is that I love it as a designer. What’s more fun than being done with a book and then thinking about how you can extend it to the packaging? For me, this is the most fun I could have. The visual language is sturdy and established (from the book) and now you need to think of a fun way to extend it.

Bu I hate it is a consumer/customer. Actually, it turns out I would never buy a book that had some elaborate packaging. Well not never, but I would feel icky about it. And not just because of the money. And not just because I have a hidden anti-consumerist streak. More like–it’s too heavy. It’s too much! It’s like the designer is trying to steal my space. I, the consumer, am ready to give Weird Book X a certain amount of my time. But not really much more. And when the designer overdesigns the packaging (and by packaging I am loosely labelling all the various designed accoutrements that could accompany a designed object) then they are stealing my time. Now when I approach Weird Book X, instead of having another minute of peace opening up bland packaging, a minute is now already devoted to Weird Book X.

So you see the problem, right? As designers we are trained and encouraged to steal more and more of people’s time–by designing every single little bit, so that it is totally the whole package, you are encroaching more and more into people’s lives.

I know I won’t find much followers here. I live in a super underdesigned space, and quite frankly, though I hate the apartment, I like the method. As a designer, I obsess over every single detail and make sure everything matches up, but as a person, I would find it cloying and unbearable to live in a super designed space.

I don’t know. As with the layering meaning, I am not strong enough or confident enough to throw this off completely. (With layering meaning I actually feel much more conflicted about than with this.) This area is especially an area of design student showing off; if you are showing off your portfolio, it’s tough to say, I did not design a box for this product because I thought the viewer needed a bit of a break. You have to show how clever you are by designing an amazing, viewer-time-stealing box, too.

But this is something to aim for, for me. How to feel that I am never overdesigning, that I am making things I would actually get.

Maybe that is never. Maybe it is my lot of life to design things I would never consume??

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