Victor Papanek didn’t think much of designers. “There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a very few of them,” he wrote in the opening line of his 1971 book “Design for the Real World.” “And possibly only one profession is phonier. Advertising design, in persuading people to buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have, in order to impress others who don’t care, is probably the phoniest field in existence today.” – This extract from the New York Times review continues here
Wake up with the sun. Work, play, exercise, eat. Go to bed when the sun goes down. Just don’t use anything that needs a plug – no mobile phone, no computer, no lights.
That was the premise of todays little experiment – to see how reliant I had become on electricity in my daily life. To find out how it went,
I hadn’t really planned this, but it’s always nice to have a little challenge. I find it keeps the mind fresh.
As I awoke I turned over to pick up my phone and the battery was dead. I then turned to my computer to plug it in and it too was dead. The cable to plug in both devices was just a few feet away. Out of early morning lag, a laziness kicked in and my mind started to wander – what if I didn’t get up to plug in. What would it do to my productivity to not have these tools at my disposal. Could I survive a day without them.
The challenge was set. I turned over and went back to rest for a minute to decide what to do on my day off. It struck me that for my whole life I have barely spent a day without some form of device that relies on electricity.
It felt quite novel at first, but then the first pang kicked in… I should reply to that email. What if someone was trying to call me about an emergency. I could add the finishing touches to that project. I fought these off by going for a run, then breakfast then…
…now what, I was lost. No email, no calls or texts, no design, no creativity. Hang on, this was ridiculous – I had never needed a computer to draw or design throughout my childhood. What was holding me back. The answer of course was nothing. I picked up my sketch pad and started to scribble and sat there for hours before I realised it was already well in to the afternoon and I hadn’t had lunch yet. I headed for my favorite little restaurant up the road. When I sat down I noticed another thing out of the ordinary – I was not constantly looking down at my phone waiting for my food to arrive like a nervous tick. I actually relaxed.
The afternoon as a little tougher. The thoughts about my lack of connection to the outside world were playing with my mind – I repeatedly found myself having to rationalise these near panics with the reality that in all likelihood, nothing extreme was going to happen today that could not be reviewed tomorrow.
I stayed strong. But the mere fact that I had to ‘stay strong’ blew me away – this addiction to the plug was way more severe than I had previously given it credit.
The night time was the toughest – no lights meant that getting down the stairs was actually quite hazardous – and no open flames, I live in a bamboo house. Fortunately there was just enough moonlight to help me out once my bleary eyes had adjusted.
This morning I raced to my laptop to plug in and see what I had missed – nothing. Well, nothing so earth shattering that it couldn’t have waited at least another day.
It actually felt really good to have a day unplugged and I will see about making it part of my weekly schedule. Try it. It’s strangely liberating.
(Zach Hilder created Fuck Photoshop, the pencil for the purist, available through his Etsy store.
I chanced upon it while writing this and it seemed an ideal accompaniment – apologies for the profanity)