Research: Slow Design
What are the guiding principles of this movement?
Slow movement is a really a philosophy for life. Whilst it’s early origins are said to be in the Slow Food movement, the idea of ‘slowness’ as a philosophy has spread and been fleshed out into real life practices and attitudes towards; how we design products, branding, work, leadership, fashion, family. It is encourages a holistic view and evaluation of life, as opposed to the fragmentation often seen as a part of modern living.
Quality over Quantity – the idea that its better to design one thing well i.e. with quality raw materials, with good ethical practices, with less environmental impact, than many things poorly. Being willing to pay more to have an item that will last longer than to pay less and have many items which will be used briefly and thrown away. Longevity is another key part of designing – designing things to last in contrast to deliberately making something with a short life span to keep consumers buying products.
Human Connection – seeing design as something which should add value to society, enriching the lives of every person who comes into contact with a product, from the maker, designer to consumer.
Environmental Connection – taking time to consider different solutions to design which include the environmental cost. Often this movement champions local produce, things made from regional materials or local designers.
Slowing down the pace of life, to allow conscious decisions .
Strong bond between craft and slow movement – craft or craft-manship is strongly encouraged in the movement, as an alternative to the speed of mass production, and the disconnection that can occur in the process with the land and with society.
Balance – although the movement is called the ‘slow’ movement this isn’t an encouragement to literally do everything at a snails pace. They talk about ‘good slow’ and ‘bad slow’, an example being ‘traffic or slow broadband – bad slow’ – something which hinders you being able to achieve your work. ‘Good Slow’ being taking time to read a bed time story to your children, or taking longer on a project to reach a more sustainable design as opposed to rushing it and using the cheapest available materials.
People Not Consumers – Designing with people’s needs in mind and encouraging people to see themselves as valued not just something to be manipulated or squeezed for profit.
‘The slow movement is a cultural shift towards slowing down life’s pace. It is not organised and controlled by a singular organisation. A principal characteristic of the Slow Movement is that it is propounded, and its momentum maintained, by individuals that constitute the expanding global community of Slow. Although it has existed in some form since the Industrial Revolution its popularity has grown considerably since the rise of Slow Food and Cittaslow in Europe, with Slow initiatives spreading as far as Australia and Japan’ (Wikipedia)
Carl Honore – author of In Praise of Slow – a book advocating a change to our approach to life.
Geir Berthelsen – Founder of The World Institute of Slowness (originally a Think Tank, in 1999).
Safia Minney – Founder and CEO of People Tree, a Fair trade fashion company, also author of Slow Fashion and advocate in the slow fashion movement.
- Audio from a session for the Slow Down London event, Southbank Centre London, Monday 27 August 2009. Includes an clip of Carl Honore giving a very brief explanation of the ‘slow’ movement.
- TED (Textiles Environment Design) Research PDF on Slow Design
- Slow + Film by Geir Berthelsen/The World Institute of Slowness.
- A clip from BBC News London featuring Carl Honore discussing ‘slow’ living in London.
- Design Observer – feature; In Praise of Slow Design by Michael Bierut – an article discussing slow thinking and production of graphic design content.
- A brief article on the The Thread (People Tree’s blog), about Slow fashion; The Slow Fashion Lifestyle.
- Fashion Designer Monique Van Heist’s collection Hellofashion. A unique collection of pieces that expands over time, with less seasons, and more focus on ‘classic’ or lasting clothes.
- A discussion about Hellofashion and changing attitudes to fashion; Reshaping Attitudes.
Do you believe this approach to design and making could have a positive impact on our consumption of products?
In principle yes – in practice is another thing. I think if designers can communicate this approach in a clear manner then they may be able to affect consumer attitudes. I think it also requires a different approach to advertising, particularly the messages that come across. If advertising continues to push fast consumption or thoughtless consumption people will continue to consume in this way. It’s a bit of a paradox, that designers in this movement will have to ask people to consume less but when they do buy to buy products of a higher value or monetary cost. I think designers must make clear the different value their products bring to consumers and to the world in general, shifting value from being ‘what do I get’ and ‘how quickly/easily can I get it’ to ‘how does this benefit the people who made it, what is the cost to the environment, Do I need this, Does this add value to my life?’.
Would you place more value on a product that has been created with this principle in mind? Why or why not?
Yes, I think so. Partly because if a product is created in this way it tells me that the designer hasn’t just created it to gain the most profit for themselves irrelevant of the cost to people or the environment. But I would still want to research the designers process, to see evidence that their words match their actions. I’m also drawn to the idea of something having been crafted with care and by hand, perhaps it’s a love for stories or something that seems more personal. Another reason is because to a degree these principles make up some of my own approach to designing or printmaking, so it would be strange for me to practice these things but not support those same principles as a consumer.