The quantity of manufactured Stuff has become dominating in our world. In the US alone, there are about 2.6 billion square feet throughout 54,009 public storage facilities filled with unused stuff (Harris). The resources dedicated to the development, manufacturing, marketing and selling of each individual object is far beyond sustainable, and is coming at a large cost to our environment. In 2012, about twice as many IKEA catalogs were distributed as Bibles worldwide (Wallop). We have demonstrated an unwillingness to change and correct our mistakes. Before we reach a breaking point, designers have the opportunity to enact major changes and alter our perception of Stuff.
The Resignation will be led by designers. It will be a large scale action in response to the increasing level of over-consumption faced by many humans living on our planet. The amount of material, energy, and space dedicated to Stuff has far exceeded a sustainable level, and the resources we have dedicated to surplus material goods must be reclaimed in order to insure a healthy future for our species. Resigners will build a faithful following who will live their lives with the essentials. The factory will become a fossil, and the production of new goods will be dependent on the recycling of the old. The materials which have been poorly invested will be reclaimed, and redistributed as Standard Issued items (sleeping pad, light bulb, heater, bowl, broom). Product Reclaimers will lead the consumed from their lives of consumption.
The Resignation Catalog will spark the Reclamation. It will call for the removal of excess from homes for Sorting. It will instill a drastic desire for change, and promote a voluntary participation in the Sorting process by calling attention to the ridiculous objects we have in our homes. Pictured above is a spread of the catalog featuring some of Amazon’s top selling products such as the food dis-organizer and the mechanical broom. The Resignation will be rooted in the acceptance that the problems our species is facing with production cannot be avoided and that action cannot be delayed. The Resigned will see the errors of our ways and view further consumption as a reflection of ignorance. The Resignation will be driven by awareness and frustration, never force.
In order to fully embrace the Resignation, people will have to embody it in every aspect of their lives. Excess in any form will be undesirable, and there will be a push to decrease our species numbers. Jobs which were once allocated to the fabrication of Stuff will be redistributed to the Sorting, Reclaiming, and Revitalizing.
Pieces from the homes of the Consumed will be Sorted. The objects which serve as decoration, comfort, or luxury will be resigned and broken down into raw material. Vases will be ground up for blocks, ice cube trays will be melted down, and clothing will be shredded for insulation. Those objects which function as necessities will remain or be simplified in their state. The home of the Resigned will be neutral and tranquil, and will become a status symbol, as it reflects someone who is comprehending in the face of our global status. As time passes, the Resigners will have to evolve to fill the needs of the community. The movement will break off into separate denominations based on geography and interpretation.
The first sect to appear will be the Gatherers. They will collect items from nature which can be used to modify the standard issue items. Nothing will be killed by the Gathers or moved too far from its original location. In the image above, a standard light bulb has been elevated from the floor with the addition of a stick. Similarly, objects such as the hand broom could have a handle added to make the task of sweeping easier. These simple upgrades will not involve manufacturing of any kind. They are designed based on what is Gathered.
The second sect is a nomadic group called the Supernatives. These are people who will seek to escape the urban centers and dedicate their lives to harvesting man-made materials from the Earth. In the wake of the Resignation, there will be a halt in manufacturing. Materials which were generated from the sorted should go a long way to meet the needs of the Resigned and those who are still Consumed. However, some materials will be in shorter supply. In the Anthropocene, humans will harvest materials in same way we drill for oil, cut down trees, and net fish from the oceans in 2016. In place of natural resources, the Supernatives will harvest the man-made. They float on the waves, roam the deserts, and traverse the arctic in search of recyclables. Pictured above is a floating home with Sea Vines. These charged cables will collect floating plastic from the Garbage patch to be extruded back into raw material. By seeking these materials, they will help to reverse the human imprint on the planet.
The third sect is the most traditional in the sense that they adapt their standard pieces with new additions to fit their changing needs. This group will be called the Augmenters. Based on many of the practices by the Shakers, they will take pieces which are made custom for specific people and adapt them to follow that person throughout their life. The issued items will be augmented as time and circumstances change. There will only be minimal additions such as adding wheels to the bottom of a chair as someone gets older and has more trouble walking, or adding additional cushions to the seat of a chair as bones and joints get more sore.
The fourth sect can be read as a critical statement by many, but for those who live in this lifestyle, the objects are intended as status symbols. The Living highlights the severity of the social inequity seen within product design. The Living will still adhere to the avoidance of buying manufactured items, but they will supplement this void with pieces such as the Living Alarm Clock, the Living Paper Towel Holder, and the Living Light. Once manufacturing has been stopped, the value attributed to quality and material will be placed instead on the person who can represent the object. The middle men have been removed and the person who “makes” your object is placed directly in your home.
The last sect is called the Sorted. This is an extremist sect that has come about after generations of people thoroughly Reclaiming and Sorting. The Sorted will have a complete aversion to creation. Nothing (material, ideas, etc.) within this sect could be generated and its followers will be celibate. Pieces in the Sorted community will be constructed from pieces from the homes of the Resigned looking to join this sect. The standard issue objects will be repurposed to serve even more dramatically fundamental roles within the community. In the rendering above, the different bed mats, stools and heaters, which may be brought to the community by those who wish to join, have been rearranged in an open field to create a loosely formed structure for the Sorters to inhabit.
The Resigned will be optimistic and dedicated. Their drastic measures will reverse the fate of our species and of our planet, and further confirm that their lifestyle is valuable. They will increasingly gain followers who willingly abandoned the notion of consumerism in favor of a environment void of stuff. This absence and priority shift will further allow the Resigned to devote their resources (materials, time, money, talent, etc.) towards goals which benefit their community as a whole over many generations.
Project completed with Skye Ray
All images rendered in Rhino
Harris, Alexander. “Self-storage Industry Statistics.” The SpareFoot Storage Beat. May 26, 2015. Accessed May 21, 2016. https://www.sparefoot.com/self-storage/news/1432-self-storage-industry-statistics/.
Wallop, Harry. “Ikea: 25 Facts.” The Telegraph. October 31, 2012. Accessed May 21, 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/9643122/Ikea-25-facts.html.