Caring — an antidote to mindless consumerism?

I disagreed with a few things that Jonathan Ive said in his talk at the Design Museum. But there was one thing he said with which I agree fully:

“It’s made better. There is an integrity there.

I really truly believe that people can sense care. And in the same way they can sense carelessness.

And I think this is about the respect we have for each other. If you give me something, and if you expect me to buy something, and all I can sense is carelessness, it is personally offensive.”

In practice, that integrity, that care, that respect all require — and drive — a few things in the process of making.

The maker or craftsperson, who knows his or her materials well, their limitations, their potential, is essential to this process. The craftsperson then translates this knowledge into making, well, well-made products.

These products may seem a bit pricey so we buy less of but use more of, more frequently.

These products bring pleasure not just in use but in ownership too. I am thinking of the Riedel wine glasses I bought over a decade ago. A flick on the edge of the wine glass creates a single note, like from a suzu gong, that reverberates for several seconds. It is not a bug, it is not a feature. But with every wine glass making the same sound, that sound is the hallmark of a design process, which deemed the beauty of the experience at least as important as the functionality.

These products don’t fall apart at the seams, nor do their buttons or hemlines unravel easily. Like that beautiful DvF silk dress I bought fifteen years ago. I wear it often, at every given chance, but I am yet to find a stray thread hanging loose.

Some of these products are so intuitively designed that they minimise the consumer’s need to “figure out” before being able to use them. Take the iPad. So intuitive a baby can use it.

Thoughtfully made, painstakingly crafted, beautiful things spoil us. So much that one can no longer bear to engage with mass produced stuff that screams to be replaced season to season.

They spoil us because we now have tasted the possibility of paying attention and putting care in the design process of a product we use daily.

They spoil us because we have now experienced excellence and human endeavour to perfection.

They spoil us because once we see beauty and profound care, we cannot un-see it.

Perhaps, this is the antidote to consumerism.

Uncompromising care, meticulous attention to detail, deep knowledge of sensual and practical aspects of materials, craftsmanship non-pareil and a great consumer experience — from finding, to buying, owning and using — all delivering us products that truly satisfy us.

Have you experienced such care and thoughtfulness in your entire interaction with businesses that sell you things? How did it make you feel?

More importantly, how has it changed you? Tell me your stories!

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