Big Little Liars
Words by Veronica Mike Solheim
After more than two years of interviewing and publishing stories on creatives, my conclusion is this: everybody is creating with a greater purpose. Whether it’s a piece of furniture or a campaign, we want it to stand the test of time, to make an impact—we want it to be more than just objects and communication.
In the meantime the market is heading in the same direction too. Director of The Design Lab at the University of California, Donald Norman, used to say that ‘Beautiful things work,’ that we bought stuff we found attractive. Well, things have changed, Norman. Pretty is not enough anymore. Not even quality is enough. Everybody can make beautiful products, but not everybody gets their message out. It seems like the focus has shifted from the value of the actual object, to the object’s stories and branding.
We want emotions, personal and lojal relationships, and honesty. This have led to the boom of storytelling and content marketing. And while many designers and small brands are telling true stories, using positive words such as authentic, honest, handcrafted and legacy (to mention a few)—everybody else is doing it too, including big commercial brands. If they don’t have a personal story to tell, they’ll find an influencer—someone who will inspire and give them a free pass into their target group’s social media feed—and they will tell their story for them. And you’ll be open, take in the information and then BAM! A corporate logo and an effective slogan hits you in the face at the end. I recently started thinking about this. It was furniture designer Andreas Engesvik who woke me up during a design talk, when he said, ‘Big brands are giving their objects and furniture positive words so they will sell better.’
Is substance the new shabby chic?
If so, what do we do when words like authentic, honest, environmental friendly, legacy, quality and handcrafted start to leave a bad taste in the mouth? Not to mention the word design, which has lost its value long ago.
It’s easy to blame this exploitation of positive words on the big machines, but this also goes for you and I. I don’t know how many times I’ve used those words, creating content for clients, talking about our own magazine, reading about them in our interviews. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is telling stories these days.
The consumer wants honesty, but what do we do when even honesty is being tampered? And what about us, the brands, the agencies, the magazines, the messengers—who will survive in a world where everybody is creating beautiful products as well as telling authentic stories?
The one who’s telling the truth? Or the one who’s the best liar?
First published in Volume Nine.