Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Consumer Culture: Is "Handwashing" the New Greenwashing?


You've probably noticed over the past year or so practically every company has declared it's "gone green." From sneakers to cars to clothing and grocery stores, it's all eco-this and enviro-that. And in many cases, this is a good thing.

On the flip side, it is leading to a great deal of "greenwashing." Since green has become the hot new trend, companies are scrambling to highlight the ways in which they fit in, whether their green measures are substantial or not. For instance, a big-box store peddling low-energy light bulbs but handing them to you in non-recyclable plastic bags? Total greenwashing.

Well, I read a bit in Grist today about how such marketing trends tend to have 18-month life-cycles, which means all these suddenly "green" businesses must now start finding new ways to further distinguish themselves and appeal to what consumers crave.

And I wonder if I didn't see a hint of the next big marketing trend today on the cover of the graphic design magazine HOW: "Incorporating Handmade Elements." They actually call it "Design 2.0" suggesting the techie look is out and the handmade look is in.

We saw it in the opening credits of Juno, countless music videos, and anything by Michel Gondry. We see it in TV commercials like these. And I have a feeling we'll be seeing it everywhere else soon enough, too. It's the Moment for the Aesthetic of the Handmade.

Why? I think perhaps because handmade makes us feel safe, and makes huge corporations seem kinder and gentler. And in today's struggling economy, those companies that can make consumers feel warm and fuzzy will have a huge advantage.

But what is sure to follow are simulated versions of handmade, kind of like the quirky blue-ink printed "handwriting" font that spells out my address on fund-raising letters from the DNC. The handmade equivalent to greenwashing.

I'm going to call it "handwashing."

There's certainly nothing wrong with employing talented graphic designers to make handmade typography. That's completely awesome and I love the idea that creative hands will be in high demand. But if this trend becomes contorted by simulated effects, won't that cheapen the value of truly handmade work? Or will it actually raise the profile of the truly handmade over the simulated?

In any case, my prediction is that we'll be seeing a good deal of "handwashing" in the coming years if this next trend takes hold. For better or for worse, let's see how it plays out...!

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.

1 comment:

the twenty second line said...

we are going back to where we came from..handwashing, growing our own vegetables, solid wood instead of compressed saw dust furniture...
anrosh.