26th February 2017
1024 Argyle Street
Glasgow decided to give us a little reminder this weekend with an impromptu rainy morning. On the search to find somewhere warm and dry we stumbled across The Steamie, which even from the name itself appeared to fit the bill. Intrigued by a strong line-up of homemade cakes and the rain battering down on our backs, the decision was simple.
Over the past couple of weeks I had noticed a few designs pop up on various blogs that are praised for representing the observant eye of the designer; removing small struggles from our everyday lives and illustrating humans continuing motivation to not settle for the norm but find ways to thrive. This week I am talking about products that have been born from the trend of ‘life hacks’.
A driver behind this post has also been my recent research into the throwaway society through my design and technology blog, in which I have uncovered examples of re-purposing materials and products to avoid the creation of unnecessary goods. Many life hacks that we see floating around Facebook and most frequently through ‘housewife’ magazines often follow a similar trend - repurposing household products to give them a new lease of life and make our lives that little bit easier.
It becomes confusing when we address the designer’s natural need to create and constantly question how things can be better made. Are life hacks putting designers out of business? Is it a culture we must adopt in order to save our planet? Or is it simply just a bit of fun for designers to realise these sometimes novelty products?
Firstly, lets look at a couple of life hacks that I have noticed in my life and others from the seemingly infinite number of forums across the internet.
The closest hack within eyeshot is the simple yet effective use of Blu-tac to stop the light switch for my light getting lost down the side of my bed.
Looping various tea towels over drawer handles in the kitchen. Not exactly an innovative life hack but it shall aid my later discussion.
A hack to allow “dual level microwave oven cooking”. These buzzword names seem to trend within both the hacking community and in the marketing pitches of their product solutions.
Using a clothes peg to prevent dirty kitchen utensils from touching the surface.
Not the greatest life hack in my eyes with the need to replace the paper clip with every strip removed. But it appears to gain high appreciation on the web for its innovation.
A strange solution as it almost goes against the already clever innovation incorporated into the design of a zip where it locks in place if you fold the tab down. Surely a solution that ensures the tab stays down would be a better idea? It also removes the functional mans choice to only open the zipper when visiting the bathroom.
Now that we have seen some of the hacks that the everyday hero has brought into our lives, we can argue the fact that what they bring in term of functionality and quirkiness, they are somewhat lacking in aesthetic appeal. Let's look at the designer’s answer to these and some of the hacks that have inspired product solutions.
The inception of the wedge doorstop apparently came about when someone noticed slippers being used to hold doors open.
Surely this simply illustrates the fact that the decision to have bar handles on drawers is more functional.
This apparently drew inspiration from the hack mentioned earlier and I do appreciate the simple functional addition which has arguably added to the aesthetic appeal of a modern product.
This is a personal favourite of mine (not for its innovation but just how well it illustrates my point) and I can’t quite decide whether it is brilliant or truly over engineered. The accompanying breathy designer video is worth a watch for both comic value and iterating how easily these hacks can be marketed with the unrestricted use of adjective heavy language.
So what do I think about these design hacks? There is something slightly uncomfortable about the fact that they aren’t pure design and the unnecessary need for creation that they bring about is something that still confuses me. There seems to be two different kinds of people; those who find joy in the life hack and those who enjoy the quirky desirability of products created to replace the hack - so which am I?
There is something that I enjoy about the resourcefulness of a DIY life hack and I also feel that it is a perfectly good creative exercise to mock up these conceptual designs to replace hacks. However, the only conclusion I can come to when I think about this matter of unnecessary creation is that I must embrace it. Surely I can’t call myself part of the design community if I can’t praise people for ensuring that a product performs its function to a level that just can’t be found from the DIY hack. So yes, designing the life hack, in my eyes is acceptable. Designers should continue to utilise this naturally observant nature that we possess, but I think it should simply remain a design hobby. We should all remember that we have the power to create solutions to problems much greater than stopping dirty spoons from touching the work surface.
A truly beautiful breakfast experience was delivered by The Steamie. Very knowledgable staff advised me on the freshest coffee they had recently sourced, as well as their own roast. I paired this with some baked eggs topped with Parma ham and rocket which was absolutely outstanding. Some coffee and biscotti cake to finish off the morning and I felt more than ready to tackle the rain once more. The Steamie really doesn’t get the recognition it deserves being tucked away at the end of Argyle Street, but its humbleness makes it feel extra special.