Friday, May 23, 2008

Where everyone gets a spook

We've been bombarded this week with TV advertisements from the warehouse republic revolution @ the warehouse( ...or should I say spookhouse?) announcing that they teamed up with kiwi (interior) designers Peter Reid and Graham Dickie, to launch what they call "design for everyone". Under the name "republic revolution" the warehouse is now selling products hand picked by the founders of "republic home stores", which are supposedly labeled as "designer" products, when in fact, they are just the same junk and kitsch, only in more neutral colours so they can be "easy for you to coordinate with confidence". I mean, would you actually trust the good taste of someone that shows a moose head as decoration on their interior design website? and don't let me get started on that pewter cross!

Strictly from a business point of view, republic home storesit might be a good business profitable idea (for them). It's true that many people can not afford (some) good designed products. However, not everything that is expensive is actually good design... specially when we talk about furniture. A few weeks back we went to Parnell to have dinner with some friends, when we were walking to our cars, we discussed how expensive are most of the decoration and furniture sold at the stores in that area. Then again, I insist that not because it is expensive, it means it's not kitschig sometimes... in some of those stores (like republic home): it's just expensive kitsch most of the time.
I don't see anything about good design being expensive... do you? If good design is not expensive "per se", then why are some "designer" products sooooo expensive? That's because it's "emotional design" which is different from "good design". bodyfurnEmotional design is expensive. In fact, that the main characteristic of emotional design, to generate a desire to have the product so strong, that people will pay anything to have it. Emotional design has to rely on some characteristics of good design in order to be attractive, but when there are considerations that would make the product unprofitable, like strong technical contradictions, those considerations will be left unsolved. For example, apple chooses to forget about any environmental consideration, and yet people find their products desirable because they do very good work on the remaining 9 principles. Other emotional products focus only on 5 or 6 of these principles... so why do we call them "good design" when they would get a C- or perhaps even a D if we grade them against this principles? I wrote about furnware's bodyfurn chairs a while ago, as a case of bad design being marketed as "good design" just because they solve only one ergonomics problem, and nobody cares that they leave out all other design considerations... like solving those terrible horrible legs! Their marketing strategy: emotional design. I'll discuss about Dieter Rams and apple on a later post... and maybe expand on emotional design.

Good design exists not only design republic - the warehousewithin the highest price ranges. In fact, it resides not at the top level, but mostly immediately below diva, vedette, posh and that kind of emotional design which is the most expensive and not necessarily good. So it's true, affordable good design does exist. However, it is not called good design because it's "stylish" or "minimalistic". It is good design, when ALL aspects like ergonomics, manufacturability, technique, sustainability, use, packaging, repairs, etc, etc are considered and solved in an innovative and coherent way (consequent to the last detail). Aesthetics is just one of those aspects, is not the main quality, and specially no the only one. Good design is certainly not about colour schemes or "styles that combine", or minimalistic decoration that "is hot" or "cold" or with "strong forms" or "refreshingly different"... if you want something hot, then go to McDonalds or McCafe not to the warehouse!

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Anonymous Genie said...

Hmmm...I love going into the Republic shop on Ponsonby Rd, but of course I can't afford anything. I'm quite excited about the new Warehouse line. I mean, most good design is simple design and why should simple design be expensive to make and buy?

10:01 AM  
Blogger Fernando Vallejo said...

Hi Genie,

Maybe you'll be disappointed of those warehouse products. Yes, there's some nice pottery... but the quality of most of that new stuff is terrible.

The issue of why is simple design so expensive, is similar as the story with shoes or lingerie: the less material they have, the more expensive they are.

It's not a matter of quantity of materials, or how much does it cost to manufacture... it's a matter of how much are people willing to pay for it. That was used to be called "offer/demand" and now is called "emotional design".


2:24 AM  
Anonymous Genie said...

I can see what you are saying, but I think "the less material they have, the more expensive they are" is quite old fashioned. Sure there are people that buy things for the latest fad but there also a movement of consumers that want to buy good quality and simply designed products for a reasonable price.

I'm normally one of those people that buy cheap shoes that last only a year but recently I've invested in some well made, leather boots. It was a lot of leather hence the price.

Still have yet to catch a glimpse of the Republic Revolution...

3:58 PM  

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