Rusty Hood, Designing for Beauty Over Time

Everything we own enters our live and exists in time. An object has a duration. Sometimes that duration is intentional. Other times that duration is unknown. Still more, the duration is a product of the relationship that a person has to their object – how they treat it and maintain it.

It is clear that objects are impacted by their environment over time. As soon as something begins to be created, any number of environmental factors influence it. An object is always changing and evolving.

This takes many forms. It could be as simple as sticking a sticker on your laptop to something slightly more complex like how the electronics in that laptop change over a large number of uses. The list here could fill pages.

There is a human tendency to view the effects of time on an object as decay. The objects in our life seem to us pristine when we first acquire them and from that day forward they get bumped, scratched, dropped, smashed, outdated, and broken. At some point, these objects then need to be fixed or simply replaced. Over time, they seem to us defective somehow. But what happens when an object becomes more beautiful with time? Or perhaps remains at a constant state of beauty as it changes?

If there is one object in my life that understands age, it is my car. Though I have not owned it for its entire life, it has existed for about half of mine. Cars get dents, scratches, and paint deformations. For me the latter is more relevant. An accident saw that the front body of my car be replaced. The body was painted with primer, leaving it a nice gray color, but was never fully painted to its original dark green color. Being near the ocean, and with all the moisture in the bay area, my car began to rust.

As this began to happen I experienced a certain level of anxiety. “My car is getting ruined!” I thought. That was because I knew how it was when I got it and now it was changing. But as it continued to rust and change, something interesting happened. The brownish, orangish, red tone began to seem to me, beautiful. As time as progressed further, I actually like the color of my car more now than I originally got it and I enjoy watching the color change as time progresses. Its texture is rich. My initial shock was based off of my expectation that it would not change over time but now that I have understood that it is its nature to, I quite enjoy it.

A designer envisions an object to be made and exist as that object. But what happenes when we design for an object over time? What if we designed objects so that they become more beautiful over time – age adds beauty or perhaps different perceptions of it? Why must an old object be seen as decayed and in need of replacement? I want my next printer to be like that tree outside my window in the sense that it may change over time but at each moment in time it is absolutely beautiful.

It must be fundamentally understood that time is opportunity to create value in a product not an enemy to design against.

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