Design slowly.

In thinking about the spaces that make me happy I have had to slow down substantially in order to observe what about a space contributes to my happiness.  Most are familiar with the “Slow Food Movement,” begun in 1986 by Carlo Petrini a Culinary Journalist. However, there are a plethora of “slow movements” that stem from Slow Money to Slow Fashion and even Slow Design and Slow Architecture. I have been exploring the world of “Slow Movements” and feel it speaks quite nicely to some of the ideas being explored in (the) happy spaces project.

“Daily life has become a cacophony of experiences that disable our senses, disconnect us from one another and damage the environment. But deep experience of the world — meaningful and revealing relationships with the people, places and things we interact with — requires many speeds of engagement, and especially the slower ones,” explain the designers from slowLab. SlowLab, a non-profit based in NY, works  “to promote slowness or what we call Slow-Design as a positive catalyst of individual, socio-cultural and environmental well-being.”

The idea of Slow Design, slowLab explains, does not refer to the duration of something but rather the thought process behind the design and design development. Slow Design refers to “an expanded state of awareness, accountability for daily actions, and the potential for a richer spectrum of experience for individuals and communities.”

The focus of Slow Design is not to design for the commercial market place but for the well-being of people and nature. Essentially through the process of Slow Design designers and consumers are supposed to benefit from a higher quality of life. In many of the conversations I have been having with contributors to (the) happy spaces project the idea of “quality of life” has come up.  However the focus is not on the material objects which improve our quality of life but rather the spaces we engage in and how they affect us emotionally. Some of the spaces we curate  ourselves to foster happiness and well-being (such as our homes), others are spaces we seek for how they foster happiness and well-being in us, some have been curated (such as a restaurant) others have not (such as nature).

In 2004 and 2005 a sustainable design facilitator, consultant, trainer, educator, and writer participating in the Slow Design conversation, Alastair Fuad-Luke, maintained a website devoted to facilitating the Slow Design conversation. On the site he outlined the philosophy and principles, process, and outcomes of Slow Design.

Philosophy and Principles
• Design to slow human, economic and resource use metabolisms
• Repositioning the focus of design on individual, socio-cultural and environmental well-being
• Design to celebrate slowness, diversity and pluralism
• Design encouraging a long view
• Design dealing with the ‘continuous present’ (a term coined in the 1950s by Bruce Goff, the American architect who noted that history is past and the future hasn’t arrived but that the ‘continuous present’ is always with us)
• ‘Design as a counterbalance to the ‘fastness’ (speed) of the current (industrial and consumer) design paradigm’

slow design is manifest in any object, space or image that encourages
a reduction in human, economic, industrial and urban resource flow metabolisms by:

• Designing for space to think, react, dream, and muse
• Designing for people first, commercialisation second
• Designing for local first, global second
• Designing for socio-cultural benefits and well-being
• Designing for regenerative environmental benefits and well-being
• Democratizing design by encouraging self-initiated design
• Catalyzing behavioural change and socio-cultural transformation
• Creating new economic and business models and opportunities

(the) Happy Spaces Project is asking users to acknowledge and document those spaces that facilitate happiness in themselves, their friends, their families. In a sense participants are Slow Designers, taking time to acknowledge, think about, and document that which brings them happiness, one aspect of emotional well-being.


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One thought on “Design slowly.

  1. Erin Chantry says:

    I’ve never heard of the slow design movement, but am fascinated by this post. There is such a pressure on developers to buy, build, sell, and turn a profit, designers are constantly hurrying the design process. Sometimes they even resort to using the same product on multiple sites. The result of this is surely not “happy spaces.”

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