Well Worn #1: Resassessing Greatness

This is the first of what I expect to be a series of articles. I have a vague idea in my head of where I’m heading with them, but I’m trying to leave some room for thoughts to spread out if needed. As I mentioned in my short post the other day, I’ve been rethinking what constitutes “good” design. More specifically, I’m interested in how we approach designed objects, and how they fit into our lives in a meaningful way.

To start, here’s the post that made me realize that I’m thinking about things differently than everyone else seems to be. It’s a fantastic article reviewing the Braun SK55, a record player originally released in 1963. It’s beautiful, and it’s nearly flawless in its execution.

Braun SK55

Then I started questioning it. At over 50 years old, this thing is immaculate. It looks like it could be in a museum, and for most of its life was probably treated as if it were. But products aren’t art; they’re created to be used. If the standard for greatness is the need for it to be used, the SK55 should probably look more like this:


There’s my shift in thinking. I’m not saying that the iPhone is better than the SK55 (apples and oranges, really). What I am saying is that my preference is for this iPhone over this SK55. I’m shifting my metric to not only consider the creation phase of a product, but also its lifespan.

It’s not quite Wabi Sabi (and I’ll get into why not in more detail in the future), but it certainly revolves around letting life affect our most wonderfully designed things. It’s about believing that worn objects are a reflection of the outside forces that have acted on them, and in that way, signify a life well-lived.

This has been written about by plenty of others, sure, but to me the part that makes this exciting is writing in the context of now. We live in a time where digital and physical products are starting to merge, and the concept of a well-worn digital product is both bizarre and intriguing.

Suggested companion reading: Aged to Perfection