In Search of Simple
As Steve Howard, head of sustainability for furniture giant IKEA announces, we’ve reached ‘peak stuff’ in the western world, the power of the edit becomes ever more relevant.
“If we look on a global basis, in the west we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff.”
According to a 2015 study by Siegel+Gale, 63% of consumers are willing to pay more for simpler experiences, and the value and meaning of products continues to be questioned by consumers turned-off by mass consumption.
“In a digital world there are many experiences that brands can simplify” – Siegel + Gale
Brands are offering an antidote to the excessive level of choice we now face on a daily basis by striping back their ranges to often hyper-minimal product offerings
The result is a deep-dive attitude, where brands focus on doing one thing, perfectly – exploring that product in minute detail and giving rise to a new breed of consumer – the connoisseur.
‘Backlash brands’ (coined by Future Lab) understand the importance of an unwavering POV and powerful manifesto in connecting with consumers today. There’s no room to be fickle. Brands need to be bold with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude.
Edited living: brands aim to deliver product that is ultra convenient, perfectly proportioned and precisely designed to fit neatly into the consumer’s lifestyle with minimal waste or excess.
Stripped back product and experiences are on the rise as brands acknowledge the benefits of minimising distraction. In the face of feature-overload, technology that performs one function, perfectly comes to the fore, whilst ‘quiet’ experiences encourage free thinking and human connection.
“Don’t go bold; go normal” – to celebrate the opening of Muji’s flagship store in New York at the end of 2015, Japanese product designer Naoto Fukasawa spoke to a sold-out crowd about his design philosophy – in seeking out product that’s “just enough” and the “richness in having the bare minimum”
As downtime becomes increasingly rare in an ever-connected world, the benefits of boredom are brought to the fore. Switching off promotes imagination, and brands react by creating product and experiences that allow the mind to wander.
“Attention is a resource—a person has only so much of it.” – Matthew Crawford
CASE STUDIES & REFERENCES
The Black Rock Whiskey Bar, London
“Densely encyclopaedic in its hoard of 250 plus whiskeys but simultaneously stripped back in order to let the things that matter speak for themselves.”
Morioka Shoten Bookstore, Tokyo
Opening in 2015 on a quiet street in Tokyo’s Ginza district, Morioka Shoten is a ‘single room with a single book’, selling a one book at a time, with a new title on sale each week. The store changes weekly to host a small book-inspired exhibition and in-store events offer the opportunity to explore the current title in depth.
“This is an attempt to make the two-dimensional book into three-dimensional ambience and experience. I believe that the customers, or readers, should feel as though they are entering ‘inside a book’.” – Yoshiyuki Morioka
In order to create “less but better” garments, Per/ se releases one piece of clothing every two months
“At a fundamental level we believe in less but better – we live in a crowded world and marketplace, where meaning is often substituted with quantity and speed. We want to champion impact over quantity, to focus on quality, on mastering one piece exceptionally well.” – Per/Se
“Choice has become second nature where we feel entitled to it, but more people are becoming attuned to asking what am I doing and why am I doing it?” – Per/Se
With the tag line ‘do one thing well’ Hiut Denim make Jeans, and nothing else. Working to the manifesto “our town is going to make Jeans again”, the brand is also on a mission to reignite manufacturing in the small town of Cardigan, Wales- a good example of a backlash brand with a powerful POV.
We make jeans. That’s it. Nothing else. No distractions. Nothing to steal our focus. No kidding ourselves that we can be good at everything. No trying to conquer the whole world. We just do our best to conquer our bit of it. – Hiut Denim
Piaule is a homewares brand with an ultra minimal product offering –
“We will release products one–by-one to give every object the consideration it deserves.”
With the tagline ‘Beauty Simplified’, Alex Carro produce a minimalist skincare range with a mission to strip skincare back to the basics
“Engineered foods for your full life”
The desire for convenience is shaping the way we consume food. The meal replacement market is estimated to be worth between £61m ($80m, €71m) and £83m ($110m, €98m), with a potential value of £6bn ($7.8bn, €7bn) in 2026, according to Ketosoy.
Soylent have created a stripped back range of foods, perfectly engineered to fuel and fit into the busy lifestyles of convenience-hungry millennials. Stripped back nutrition for consumers who are hyper-knowledgeable about the food they eat.
Spark Joy, An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying was released earlier this year and has become a best-selling guide to simplifying your life.
A conscious lifestyle choice, Japan’s ‘hard core minimalists’ choose to live only with possessions they truly value or like, freeing themselves to enjoy immaterial aspects of life such as travel or spending time with friends. The goal is not decluttering, but re-evaluating what possessions mean in order to gain something more valuable.
“Spending less time on cleaning or shopping means I have more time to spend with friends, go out, or travel on my days off. I have become a lot more active,” – Fumio Sasaki
“I became a minimalist so I could let things I truly liked surface in my life.” – Katsuya Toyoda
Built around simplicity, clarity and focus, Punkt create electronic products designed to do their job, without intruding on their owner’s time and attention.
“Today’s world is consumed with technology and I think we are too distracted by it in day-to-day life. I founded Punkt. to offer a viable alternative for those feeling overwhelmed by the advanced technologies that have pervaded modern lifestyles. Punkt. is about using technology to help us adopt good habits for less distracted lives.”- Petter Neby, Founder
“The more our phones do, the more they demand of us….The Punkt. MP 01 is a stylish, well-crafted mobile phone which focuses on modern simplicity, inside and out. It makes phone calls and sends texts. That’s all.”
Dutch furniture brand Lensvelt is producing a collection of ‘boring’ office furniture designed “restore the balance between work and play” in the workplace. The boring Collection is a comment on the ugly appearance of affordable contract furniture, and the distracting designs being added to offices in the wake of the Google office.
This is furniture which doesn’t demand too much attention. The idea being that less distraction frees up the mind.
“The Boring Collection does not pretend to be more beautiful, in fact the Boring Collection does not claim any attention,” – Lensvelt
“Everything about the art of dining together, besides dinner”
Future Repasts is a speculative dinner series held in San Francisco “investigating how dining together can satiate us when the food is out of focus”. The dinners take place in a featureless space, where guests are asked to leave their phones at the door and to refrain from wearing distracting clothing. All that’s served are three pitchers of water, vodka and Soylent. The hosts believe that reducing all stimuli will encourage personal connection, conversation and imagination.
“The fundamental, universal element of eating together, which is companionship, shared experience, those seem to stick around.” – Rebecca Power, Future Repasts.
Founder Erica Berger talks about the impact of ‘peak content’
“Discover only meaningful content from people who matter to you. Catch the best, leave the rest” – Catch Pool
In response to the need for a ‘media diet’, Catchpool aims to be the go-to destination for an edit of the best content the web has to offer. The focus is on quality over quantity, as well as serendipitous discovery.
“We believe that every choice counts, and as such, Catchpool is focused on driving meaning through minimalism. Our mission is to help you easily uncover content that inspires, interests, and delights you. Ultimately, we want to help you enjoy life through the lens of the best on the web. Then, you can get off the web and explore the best the physical world has to offer with the people that mean the most to you.”
The trend in festivals is towards niche events: festivals with focus which aim to bring together like-minded people:
Launching this year, Other Festival is New York’s first all-female festival. Mixing talks, music and workshops, Other Festival is a celebration of female creators, designed to educate and inspire.
“The beautiful lovechild of a retreat and a festival”, Restival launched in Morocco in 2015. Part music festival, part wellness retreat, Restival takes a holistic approach to festival-going and encourages attendees to disconnect to reconnect.