Sunday, March 22, 2009

The inexplicable design chasm

Visited a store today that retailed home linen . Thought I'd buy a bed cover . Had the familiar experience of going through the designs and finding none suitable .

The mill printed bed sheets and bed covers leave me standing in stores wondering in amazement how with all the modern day technology available today can companies create such strange and mediocre designs. The pack invariably has an image of the bedcover displayed on a bed . And today I have come to the conclusion that the thumb rule is - the more attractive the photograph the worse the actual design is. Colors are strange . Designs are large / blurry / strange / surreal / nightmare inducing . Some printed bed covers I have seen have had sharp motifs . However the colors were way too strong . It seems that the brands / mills design in the absence of a customer context . Urban homes are compact . A bedroom has several objects besides the bed . The design on the bed cover must enhance the room not stand out in a jarring way.

I have yet to come across a mill printed bed cover in Mumbai retail stores that has a soothing , pleasant , elegant look . Why this is so mystifies me. The average printing technology has improved significantly , designs can be made precisely , design resources are available from across the world . It costs nearly the same to make a mediocre design as much as it costs to make a beautiful design (assuming quality is the same ).

India has a rich textile heritage which is a treasure trove for design inspiration . Rendered well they would be beautiful complements to Indian homes bringing heritage and beauty to contemporary Indian homes. Yet , hardly any of the mills have explored this in a meaningful way. With the precision that printing technology now allows exquisite designs of yore can be brought to life . Something that was not possible in a cost effective way perhaps until a decade ago. If the mill prints available were beautiful graphic motifs one could still understand. But they are neither.

In today's stressed out world there is a definite need to design products that inspire , enable calm. A product has to be more than the sum of it's parts .

Brands may argue that they are selling bed covers . So what is the problem ? Customers seldom show up at a store and articulate exactly what they want . And even those who do - at best the store salesperson listens to the feedback . Most companies have no mechanism to get feedback or use it meaningfully . So the status quo continues with variations of small amplitude. People need bedcovers so they show up at stores and pick from what's available . 

Until Apple unveiled gorgeous , joy inducing computers - aesthetics of devices retailing until then were limited to minor changes of metallic shades.

My next bed cover ? Spotted a lovely block printed set at a store . If that's not available when I go there next there's always the option of solid colors :)

p.s - This one may be true only of Mumbai . Therefore non-Mumbai residents may or may not be able to relate with this.

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