Saturday, July 21, 2007

Aesthetics, or Why Is Everything So Ugly?

Today, there are few things uglier, or more wasteful, than the appliance. Everything is encased in dull gray plastic, and even when brand-new can't be expected to last very long. Things are made to break, to be disposable, and once they are disposed of, they sit in a landfill, never decomposing and looking ugly and plastic and leeching into groundwater forever. However, this wasn't always the case!
Until not so very long ago, things like household appliances were made not only to be beautiful and well-designed, but to last. Instead of making something that would break and then be replaced, it was assumed that things would wear well and be repaired if broken. (Today, it's the opposite- it's almost never worth it to get something fixed, when you can just buy a new one.)

This is the case with numerous old things- clothing, automobiles, furniture, and more. But it particularly struck me in regards to appliances simply because today they really are so cheaply made and unbearable to look at. Look at the hearing aid to the left, as streamlined as a 1930's tuxedo- or the wooden radio up top, with its cleverly designed deco-esque speakers and warm wooden finish, or the truly gorgeous green portable typewriter- today I try to hide my radio out of sight, but these things were designed to sit on a shelf and look just as beautiful as anything purely decorative. It looks like someone put time and care into creating then, not as if they just came out of the same mold as everything else.
More than anything, I find this disposable phenomenon depressing. One might hope, with the current "green" fad and new focus on environmentalism, things might change. Personally, I just feel sad that this attention to detail and aesthetics has gone by the wayside, creating a throwaway economy that will leave behind a pile of ugly plastic garbage.

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