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Embracing “Lightheartedness” in Design

Posted in Design By Warner Carter

Attending design exhibits made me realize that most contemporary designs today have gone overly serious to the point that they appeared insipid and plain. Most of them are very similar with what exists in the market. We all know that exhibits are the launching ground of any design intended for mass production, and a big fraction of what’s been displayed here could possibly become part of our daily lives. If these exhibits would continuously display the same old bland and somber designs, chances are, the American design market would continue to tail behind other Asian countries.

Lightheartedness is the key

In fact, the Asian design market is a bit behind in terms of publicity and recognition. Many Asian designers have to travel to Europe and America just to gain mainstream exposure and to have their designs translated into real, marketable products.

During my trip to Tokyo and Korea several years ago, I was astounded by their current design market. I lived there for three months and learned that I did not have to bring myself to exhibits just to see the spectacle of their design industry; everyday living in these two countries was everyday exposure to their innate trait that played a big part in their flourishing design market: lightheartedness. Asians know how to play with design, how to incorporate art and bring vivacity to products that are solely intended for mass market release. Conversely, they also know how to balance their innate lighthearted approach with the technical demands of ergonomics.

Lightheartedness in design
Image Credit: James Jordan

The American design market

Most American designers fail to incorporate lightheartedness into their works. American marketers, display shops, and stores are not yet acquainted and open to these. In Japan, however, contemporary designers managed to combine the playful simplicity of Enzo Mari’s oeuvre to Watanabe Riki’s strict compliance to ergonomics. Munemichi Yanagi and Masanori Umeda are living testimonies to it: the former’s Butterfly and Elephant stools and the latter’s Robot cabinet and Rose chair are a perfect example of lighthearted designs embellished in austere design technicality. Yet on the contrary, American stores are a bit short of it. Macy’s, JCPenney, and even IKEA still seem doubtful in entertaining and putting lighthearted designs in their stores. Just recently, my 3-hour walk in a popular display arcade resulted to disappointment. Though I had seen some Asian-inspired home furniture’s, I felt that this retail store had never taken these designs seriously, for they put these Asian-inspired lighthearted designs on the kid’s section.

Lightheartedness and Ergonomics

Every design should adhere to ergonomics, or designing equipment and devices that fit the human body, its movements, and its cognitive abilities. If a lighthearted design does not comply with ergonomics, it would just remain a piece of art, something that is intended only for the audience’s appreciation and not for marketing release.

In Web Design

On the contrary, Web Design—being the most neglected genre and industry in the entire design market—is playing on the different side of the game. While the larger part of American design market has grown overly serious and technical with their design approach, many contemporary American Web designers today seem to have the understanding of incorporating lightheartedness into their designs. Today, there are lots of Web designers who incorporate playfulness, simplicity, and fun into their works.

3 comments
Warner Carter
Warner Carter

Some people say "attitude is everything" I think designers cannot help but bring their attitude into their work.

Marcus Andreo Salazar de Bermudez
Marcus Andreo Salazar de Bermudez

Yeah. I couldn’t agree with you more here, too. Asians are better than American when it comes to Design. Even Malaysian and Filipino designs are way way way way greater than BORING AMERICAN Designs. Indian designs are great, too.

fred finally fast
fred finally fast

I've worked in professional design for nearly a decade and I couldn't agree with you more here. SUBTLETY is a majorly important factor in art, whether that art be music, painting, logo design, whatever. It's something people overlook because of its very nature: it's subtle.

Also, just walking around Japan you can become incredibly inspired because EVERYTHING their is a masterpiece of design.