There is this tree… The tree that has been haunting me for a few days now. To be precise, it is a small plastic christmas decoration that I have found in M&S last time I went shopping. When I have seen it on the shelf my heart stopped for a second. And this time it wasn’t excitement. Rather confusion. Yes, I did design it last year as one of the experimental LED products as a freelance project. But I didn’t know that it went any further and surely not that it ended up being sold… In my head I started to make a list of excuses – how it was in my brief to experiment with simple products that lit up, that it didn’t look quite bad in the dark and how it’s not my fault that LEDs have horrible neon colours. In the end I decided not to tell anyone and just keep it to myself.
But then it really made me think about how we are all think of the responsibility that designers have to the world and how important it is to design simple, practical, sustainable and beautiful products… and then we end up designing… well… little LED trees. Because that is what market wants and what people buy. In fact, the same day I went on the shop’s website and found that my tree was 8th on the list of bestsellers, just after back-lit plastic penguin, little santa and a star and the next day all of those LED “beauties” were sold out!
Maybe I shouldn’t be so cynical about it – in the end this is what people want to buy – something cheap, effective and disposable. And if majority likes it then… what do I know. On the other hand I have to learn my lesson: I am a designer and even though I have the tiniest influence on what people buy I should consider everything I make a potential product offered to the end customers, that they will use and dispose of later. Even if they are experiments, I have to be responsible for them. I know sometimes it is hard to compromise, but maybe there are other ways to innovate, without packing things with electronics and making them flash… I am hopeful.