Design Rules: Context is king
Last week I wrote about the perplexing array of products in the Neiman Marcus home department, and my friend, KitchenLab and design in a bag‘s Rebekah Zaveloff left a thoughtful comment about the important role context plays in shaping our perception. “I kept thinking, it’s all about how pieces are put together and the context of collections and the power of someone who understands merchandising. I saw a lamp, rug or side table that if I viewed them in the context of Jayson Home or ABC carpet I’d love it, but assembled with all these other pieces, they didn’t hold my interest.” She’s so right. I overlook all kinds of amazing, many valuable, finds at garage sales and thrift stores simply because I can’t help but associate things with their environment and merchandising (or lack thereof). The inverse is also true. I’ve bought far too many perfectly merchandised but way too expensive pieces that looked positively pedestrian when isolated in my place: furnishings, accessories, rugs and candles. Lots and lots of candles. Making generally accurate snap judgements based on context seems like an evolutionary winner to me, so responding to spectacular merchandising is probably hardwired. Maybe that’s why I love Kartell’s gnome table when I otherwise despise gnomes. Sure, there was something I liked about them before I knew they were Kartell but only because I’d seen them pop up in gorgeous magazine spreads (thanks to Kartell). And to tell you the truth, I wanted one a lot more intensely when I realized they were so pedigreed. What’s up with that? Einstein famously theorized that time was relative depending on the speed of the observer, and I’m pondering a similarly revolutionary (but design-centric and less math-y) theory of context. Stay tuned. In the meantime, please consider the following questions when formulating your (much appreciated) comments:
a.) Do you ever wonder what influences your own aesthetic preferences?
b.) The gnome table – that’s cool, right? Or have I been seduced? Is it high design or a joke on the consumer?