The New Normal – Value does not equal cheap

About a year back when I first heard the term “New Normal”, I thought it was a marketing pitch by an economist who was looking to score with a new book.  Don’t know how the book deal is going, but the term, and the idea, has certainly caught on.  Bling is out – Excess is excess, and we just aren’t looking for so much Stuff anymore.

So what does this mean to the design community and our customers?  The New Inquiry provides an academic discussion of how Ikea tells us how we are coming back to our roots; how we can enjoy the simple things.  While I think this is all true,  there is another thing going on.  Ikea is telling us that they provide cheap great design, not great design that happens to be cheap. The shift is subtle, but Ikea lovers will know that low-cost was considered The Bonus, rather than The Substance.

Restoration Hardware has gone down a different path; They touted their new reinvention this past summer.  Whether you like the new style or not (Rusty Lux?), it can’t be coincidence that the product line is monochromatic, well used, and familiar.  There seems to be no evidence of prices dropping, rather the Look at Me factor has been toned down several notches:

Another rather surprising development comes from our friends at Ligne Roset.  While some may argue that great Italian design transcends fashion, it’s usually not touted as such in ad copy.  Words like “classic”, and “functional” are normally not we would expect from the brand, but these are new times.  The style is something we have seen before, and comfort is definitely part of the equation:

How does this apply to the built environment, other than The Stuff We Buy goes into The Stuff We Build?  It’s a bit early to tell, but there are some lessons:

A:  Price may matter, but its not everything

B:  Fashion may be a bit less fashionable these days

C:  Familiar is the new Fresh

Over the next several months, I’ll be on the lookout for examples in the built environment. The New Normal is coming – we just need to figure out how.

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