I used to work at a place that was big and successful and slavish in its mediocrity. When someone brought up the quality issue, our boss would tell the lawn chair story. It was about his parents, who loved to sit on the porch and watch the world go by. For years they"d watched from the same beat-up lawn chairs. I always pictured those flimsy aluminum ones, the webbing torn and patched, sinking lower each evening.
A better lawn chair from form + function
When their son said, "Hey, I"ll buy you the nicest lawn chairs they make," the folks replied, "We don"t need "em. These are good enough for us." So that"s it. The "Good-Enough" aesthetic. I would call it the Hoosier aesthetic, but why pick on the locals? Good-Enough is just fine with the majority of Americans. The Good-Enough aesthetic is why we go to work in drab, windowless offices. Why our apartments and condos are numbingly the same. Why Indianapolis doesn"t have as many parks and greenways as do other cities. Why this is a city full of fake stuff because it"s low maintenance, instead of the real stuff because it"s beautiful. The Good-Enough aesthetic is somehow tied to our so-called work ethic - as if putting up with a senseless floor plan makes one a more noble person. Actually, it"s the other way around. Great design elevates the spirit, and challenges the intellect of those who use it. It inspires creativity. Energizes a work force. Tells people they matter. Why don"t we demand more of it? I think it"s because most of us don"t stop to notice the difference between good-enough and truly good design. We don"t - or believe we don"t - know how to evaluate such things. Not true. If you"re a thinking human being, you"re qualified to assess whether the products you use, the buildings you inhabit and the streets you drive on are well-thought-out. When you get right down to it, that"s all design is: the application of logic to the process of making something. Designing, or thinking about design, is good exercise for the brain. Here are some other reasons why design should matter: ï Design shapes our world, it ultimately shapes us. ï Demanding well-designed objects in your life is a matter of self-respect. ï Bad or ill-intentioned design can fool us if we"re not careful. ï Better design is essential to solving today"s social and environmental problems. The Good-Enough aesthetic isn"t good enough any more. It hasn"t been for a long time. For our own sakes, we need to upgrade the world we live in. Those upgrades won"t come until we demand them. Which requires that each of us become more well-versed in the language of design. With that goal in mind, I"ve done some research and come up with a little "design literacy" program. Here are three things a person should cultivate to become a voice for right-minded design in this city. 1. Design awareness 2. Design fluency 3. Design activism First, let"s tackle design awareness. You can"t evaluate an object without standards to compare it to. So to become more discerning, why not get out and look at some of the better design your world has to offer? In the chart is a by-no-means exhaustive list of places to check out. (Remember, there"s nothing wrong with hanging out in stores where the price tag for a purse is more than a month"s rent to you. You have as much right to be there as anyone else - and expensive stores can be good places to see what good design looks like. Then you can go to TJ Maxx and apply what you"ve learned.) Spend a few days looking around for some better-than-good-enough design. Then we"ll get back together. Where design matters: resources and inspiration Architecture: Eiteljorg Museum 500 W. Washington eiteljorg.org 636-9378 Indiana Historical Society 450 W. Ohio St. 232-1882 Indiana State Museum indianamuseum.org 232-1637 IMA Gardens Horticultural Society of Indianapolis Museum of Art 924-9881 Home Style: Artifacts 6327 Guilford Ave. 255-1178 Collections 111 E 49th St. 283-5251 form + function Nora Plaza 1300 E. 86th St. 569-9999 Gilda"s 703 Broad Ripple Ave. 202-0233 Houseworks 5252 E. 82nd St. 578-7000 Midland Arts & Antiques Market 907 E. Michigan St. 267-9005 MODPOD 5910 N. College Ave. 255-6123 Target Various locations Electronics: The Sharper Image 8701 Keystone Crossing 574-9250 Bang & Olufsen 8702 Keystone Crossing 569-9301 Fashion: Coach Leatherworks 8701 Keystone Crossing 575-8007 Donald Pliner shoes Nordstrom 130 S. Meridian St. 636-2121 Auto: Mini Cooper Dreyer & Reinbold Carmel