17.22, Friday 21 Jan 2011

Bruce Sterling's essay The Last Viridian Note is only partly the final message from a design movement -- although it is that: the Viridian movement is an approach to sustainability that eschews the hair shirt and belt-tightening. Viridian is bright green environmentalism. Sustainability through technology and design. No, the Last Viridian is a manifesto for a way of living.

Sterling identifies four categories of products to allow into your life:

  1. Beautiful things. Beautiful things he says are important. They should be on display, he says. He says this: Your pride in these things should enhance your life, your sense of taste and perhaps your social standing.
  2. Emotionally important things. Sterling says there are sentimental keepsakes that you want to pass to your grandchildren. Hang onto these.
  3. Tools, devices, and appliances that efficiently perform a useful function. Tools that aren't beautiful or emotionally important should be held to exacting standards. Collecting semi-functional gadgets because they are shiny-shiny is a vice. So: perfectly functional.
  4. Everything else. Everything else, says Sterling, you should throw away.

(I spoke at the Luxury Briefing conference yesterday about the stories that products tell, and about illusionary faces and little robots. Everyone was well dressed and wonderfully friendly. It was interesting to see how closely many "luxury" products align with the Last Viridian manifesto. Of course, many don't. My key takeaways: there exist online artificial personality constructs for the purposes of market research; there is a drug in the Amazon that makes you see god, and another that lets you see camouflaged animals, and yet another that heals your mouth; the future of retail is charm. The idea of charm has stuck with me.)