Chew slowly

October 23, 2012

We were meeting yesterday about a potential project and one of my co-workers lamented, “we just never get enough time to design.” This isn’t the first time I have heard this. And it isn’t always a designer who says it.

It made me think about the process of design which, despite all the technology we throw at it, is still the equivalent of connecting brain to pen to paper.

To create requires two things: inspiration and time. Neither can be rushed, despite what the Gantt chart says.

Last week I heard about the Slow Goods movement. As part of the Slow Movement writ large (which includes Slow Food, Slow Fashion and Slow Money, among other things), Slow Goods encourages thoughtful and methodical conceptualization, design and manufacturing of physical objects. The idea is to take the time to do things well, do them responsibly and do them in a way that allows the designer, artisan and end user to derive pleasure from them. Some would call this bliss.

To create requires two things: inspiration and time. Neither can be rushed, despite what the Gantt chart says.

Contrast this with what I heard on NPR’s Morning Edition today, a piece on media consumption and our society’s 'on demand attitude.' Now that many of us have multiple screens in our lives—television, computer, smartphone are just the basics— our expectations are high. And so are our frustrations. We want variety, mobility and quality of media content NOW. And as I listened I thought, don’t we all want variety, mobility and quality in everything NOW?

As a whole, the world has become so very impatient. Not to enter the whole Big Bird fray, but I think back to over 40 years ago when Sesame Street was introduced with a parental advisory warning. Critics blamed the show for an increase in ADHD by reinforcing the short attention spans of children. How long were those segments? About five minutes. Some would call that interminable.

How can we as design professionals find a comfortable place between these two extremes?

It is a struggle. And something to chew on…..sloowwwwwly.