Why Playful Design is Big Business

 

Circles, spheres, and playful, bubbly forms are more than just a cyclical trend or chic eccentricity. Rounded shapes in our environment are deeply satisfying and will arguably will play a much more significant role in design going forward for one simple reason: New technology has taken the high cost out of building curves.

Gaetano Pesce’s iconic “La Mamma” armchair and ottoman for B&B Italia. Photo via Wikimedia

Gaetano Pesce’s iconic “La Mamma” armchair and ottoman for B&B Italia. Photo via Wikimedia

Ingrid Fetell Lee’s “Playful” Aesthetic (one of the 10 we introduced here) is based on the fact that “our emotional brain unconsciously prefers round forms over angular ones. Research has shown that people implicitly associate curved forms with safety and positivity, while associating sharp angles with danger and negativity.”

In other words, while curvy walls and round furniture might feel very 60’s-70’s retro to some of us (thinking of Austin Powers’s rotating round bed), it has apparently been our default design preference all along. (You don’t have to be a Freud scholar to conclude it’s probably all about Mom, a concept not lost on Gaetano Pesce). It could be argued that the only reason we haven’t made everything around us round is because, historically, building round things has simply been too expensive—cutting curves into furniture or fabric is wasteful when most of your materials come in linear or square measures. Curved walls have been trickier still, which is why you don’t see a lot of oval rooms outside of the White House.

But now that digital printing is at our doorstep, and we won’t have to cut out of any pre-existing slabs, board feet, or bolts, will right angles soon become passé?

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog sculpture, via Wikipedia images

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog sculpture, via Wikipedia images

On the subject of playfulness, Ingrid Fetell Lee also goes on to say that “cuteness” should not be underestimated as a powerful design element. The things that make everyone smile despite themselves (adorable pet videos, googly eyes, balloon dogs, or cartoon chairs) are big business because they strike a chord with everyone, regardless of age or station in life. It’s the common denominator, right?

Yet, in elite circles (pun intended), bulbous and cartoonish motifs are the height of sophistication when rendered by talented contemporary artists and designers like Jeff Koons and Gaetano Pesce. You just can’t take your eyes off of their pieces—the appeal is visceral.

To be sure, playful design is no joke. We have the technology to design joyful environments. Now we just have to build the courage and vision to see those concepts through!

 
Sandy HughesComment