Bored by Authenticity

POSTED BY Izzie Zahorian on Oct 27, 2011

Resident badass Chris Freed shared a presentation yesterday on the value of doing as it pertains to soulful work. Rather than speculating, planning, humming, hawing, and rationalizing about a concept some more—if you commit pen to paper, hand to tool, instinct to action, you might just create something brilliant.

There's more to the humming and hawing stage of design than blank slate syndrome, though. We owe it to our clients to scrutinize concepts in detail, to be sure that the idea is solid, the design is functional, and the execution can stand up comfortably and confidently against competitors in the marketplace.

However, somewhere along in the rationalization process, designs get watered down. The more you refine a product, the slicker it becomes and the less human it can feel. 

According to Apartment Therapy's Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, in this NYTimes article: “People [are exhausted] with the shiny and perfect. People don’t relate to it anymore. But the vintage and artisinal will resonate with people as long as we live in these times."

The article continues: Maybe not with everyone, though. As Dmitri Siegel put it: “When you pile Etsy on top of Etsy, it gets really cacophonous: "Everything in here is totally unique!’ It starts canceling itself out.”

And though there are disparities between being engulfed by a sea of Etsy crafts versus a sea of Shinya Kimura motorcycles, it does start to make one think. Would life really be better with artisinal everything?

For me, the answer is maybe. Maybe, and I wish. But the point Siegel is getting at is that without mass-produced experiences as a reference point, personalized experiences start to feel dull. In an ideal world, life would be filled only with objects of integrity but, sometimes, you just feel like a Big Mac.


Images via Old Faithful Shop and The Selvedge Yard

WRITTEN BY Izzie Zahorian

Add a comment


Fat Mountain

Nov 1, 2011 at 10:47am

"Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, whereas all of Los Angeles and the America that surrounds it are no longer real, but belong to the hyperreal order and to the order of simulation." Jean Baudrillard

David Bates

Oct 28, 2011 at 11:37am

I personally thought the Shinya Kimura cycles were a great example of being authentic because the bikes were hand built by him, by his beliefs and no two were exactly alike. you were buying a piece of Shinya Kimura, not a mass produced product. I want one...sold!

The Jeep message was more of a jab at America loosing it's soul to get its hands dirty with Jeep piggy-backing on that. From an advertising perspective, I can appreciate the message if it is generally directed to Americans but not sure how authentic it is for Jeep to stand behind. If it is really the "why" they do what they do as a company... the so called, "built in America", then they need to be 100% that. 100% may be genuine for jeep in terms of what the brand used to be but not so much now when you start to deconstruct the jeep of today and see where all of the parts really came from. So... a GREAT "look into the mirror" message for us oversized, shopaholic, status seeking, third world wealth transferring, escalator riding, high fructose eating, addicted to oil Philistines called "Americans" to pay attention to and "check in with what we have all lost in terms of being an "authentic" American.


Oct 27, 2011 at 1:19pm

I think the "authenticity" thing is starting to become a parody of itself. Case in point: Blackbird in Ballard sell a Billykirk laptop bag "handmade in PA, USA by Amish artisans". Yes, because nothing says "authentic" quite like a laptop bag made the Amish!! It's a nice bag to be sure but the idea of an Amish laptop bag is simply comical, you almost wonder if it wasn't taken directly from an episode of Portlandia. Next up I'm sure we'll see "heritage" cell phones or "vintage" iPad apps.