A few weeks ago I was invited to talk at a PechaKucha Night in Derby. I took the opportunity to talk about a few things I had recently read about — seeing it as a chance to combine some ideas and see whether they could relate back to design in some way.

The first book I introduced was the late 70s best seller Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which I had read a few months back. I focused on its exploration of the ‘Classical / Romantic’ philosophical concept — an idea that says we see the world in these two different ways.

I used a clock to explain the Classical point of view;  to describe its’ functions, facts and things you could actually prove. I used the same clock to demonstrate that you could see the same object from a Romantic point of view; to appreciate its’ craft and beauty as an object, maybe even how it made you feel.

I transposed this Classical / Romantic duality to an interpersonal level where I talked about how some people are logically minded (Classical) and others conceptually minded (Romantic).

At this point I introduced the second book — The Dream Society — a book I had read more recently.

James at PechaKucha Derby

Imagine hundreds and hundreds of years from now when global economies equalise and wealth is more-or-less evenly distributed — this may mean that material things will come to have less value. And so future economies will revolve around evoking a strong emotional connection to stay relevant.

The book points out present-day examples of this emotional connection. These were Disney with its ‘magical’ attributes. Sporting events as they are aspirational (as humans we aspire to achieve great things: Esteem, part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). And also tourism with its’ natural, enduring beauty.

I then took the Classical / Romantic duality to industry and used the technology industry as an example. I described the fact that there has been a definite shift from the IBM days where computing was all about features, specs and crunching numbers (Classical) to the recent years with the success of Apple and their focus on usability, humanness (Romantic).

I concluded that what matters — now, but more increasingly in the future — is this emotional value. Having advanced technology, automation and everything that comes with it is great, but there will still be a need for us to be human, not merely machines.

My closing words for the talk were “Be romantic”.

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