This morning, emboldened by this insightful blog post written by my friend and colleague Paul Bennett, I slipped on a pair of Crocs and headed to work.
Now, my workplace is not a place where people generally sport Crocs. It's also a place where nobody really cares about what you wear (anything goes), but where they also really care about what you wear (everything matters). There's a tension there, and it makes life interesting. So, upon strolling in the door, here's what my own two feet encountered:
The photo above doesn't do them justice, but next to my injection-molded plastic foam thingies stand a proud pair of gorgeous, yellow suede bespoke wingtips, crafted with love by a British shoemaker who was undoubtedly trained a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away by the wizened creature who invented cobblery in the first place. In other words, it would be hard to put two products from the same category side by side and yet have such a gulf of experience, materials, approach, and point of view separating them. As Paul notes, my Crocs are the footwear equivalent of the Volkswagen Beetle (the "New" one, methinks). In constrast, if those yellow shoes were a car, they'd be an Aston Martin DB5.
But as designed objects, they're both completely valid. One is bespoke. The other, just like the original Beetle, is happy just to "be". However, neither is better than the other; they are both high-integrity, authentic objects, not pretending or trying to be anything other than what they are. They each mean something. Both work because their designers and makers knew what was important.
Yet another example of the power of a strong point of view and why it is such an imperative to have one before you start designing anything. Points of view drive meaning.