Quality of life through simplification

Klaus Botta, 21.12.2018

“Our lives have become complicated”

This realization is not really all that new. And hardly anyone will be surprised to hear that this trend is likely to continue unabated. Stress and excessive demands are our constant companions. It is not only those who live in large cosmopolitan cities who are affected – this trend affects more or less the entire industrialized world.

The main driving forces behind this development are technical progress in general and global interconnectedness in particular. This is evident above all in the international trade in goods and the handling of information. “Internet and digitization” are the keywords in this context.

Global knowledge now doubles every two years

Ten years ago, it took five to seven years for accumulated global knowledge to double. This exponential increase in information and accelerated pace of innovation has consequences for everyone.

If you are over the age of 40, you will no doubt remember a time that was significantly less hectic and more manageable. However, younger people also complain increasingly about stress due to sensory overload and the constant need to take decisions. Though the term “burnout” has only been in popular usage for around 30 years, nowadays it is familiar to everyone – in many cases due to painful personal experience.

So what would be an appropriate way to deal with this general complication of life, given that we cannot escape the phenomenon? Sooner or later we will probably all have to face up to this question, especially if we have a full-time job or are managing the demands of family life.

One practicable way out is to focus on what is really important in life

One of the ways in which stress comes about is through the uncritical consumption of media or goods. A first effective step with respect to media consumption could be to stop chasing after every mass trend, to stop reading every e-mail the moment it comes in, and to stop being constantly online in all the social media networks. Watching or listening to the news regularly can also raise stress levels, however, as these media are the primary gateways to negative information.

Anyone who is constantly up-to-date with the world’s collective problems should not be surprised if their mood and outlook on the future become somewhat negative. And yet it has been conclusively proven that the world is continuously improving, generally speaking (recommended reading: Matthias Horx “Anleitung zum Zukunftsoptimismus”). The problem is that news services are becoming increasingly efficient, spreading their negative news more widely, more quickly and more effectively.

As far as the consumption of goods is concerned, it can be helpful to give serious thought to whether a particular new purchase will actually make our lives any more pleasant – or whether it will in fact serve only to increase our everyday stress levels. After all, everything we buy has to be selected, purchased, set up and maintained. The effort involved in this – especially when we are talking about technological products – should not be underestimated.

Less is indeed sometimes more

“Ugliness doesn’t sell”, was the maxim of the designer Raymond Loewy back in the nineteen fifties.

“Complicatedness sells equally badly these days”,

… is what we have experienced as a product development and design company.

Ever since we set up our design office in 1986, we have been creating and designing mainly technical products. As such, we are familiar with these problems from our daily work. We therefore see it as our responsibility to simplify the product world as best we can, in an attempt to make the lives of those who use our products more straightforward and manageable.

“The more complex the structure of technical products, the more thoroughly and intelligently they will need to be designed in order to be easily operable.”

This is one of the key conclusions we have drawn from over 30 years of professional practice. For far-sighted and more conscious users and consumers, devices that are easy to use are now far more attractive than highly complex and multifunctional products that can do everything. Ultimately, it is up to the customer to choose a high-quality, properly thought-out and thus long-lasting product, rather than allowing oneself to be tempted by a lower-quality bargain that will soon need replacing. The latter will necessarily lead to greater stress and more effort.

This might be generally expressed as follows, though this will apply primarily to the more conscious section of the population.

“The more complicated the world, the greater the yearning for simplification.”

The UNO - and therefore also its owner - consciously take a humane approach to time. In the meantime, our one-hand watch has become a veritable symbol of this attitude.

One example of a long-lasting product that reflects this goal is Botta-Design’s UNO – a watch that uses only one hand to display the time, rather like a measurement instrument. This is sufficiently precise for everyday life, yet allows the time to be told in a very intuitive way.

Two opposing trends can be observed on the market. On the one hand, we are seeing more and more cheap and non-durable mass products. And on the other hand products are becoming established that are characterized by quality, durability and in many cases structural simplicity. Furthermore, there is clear evidence of a lasting trend towards simplifying operating structures in many areas of everyday life.

“Quality rather than quantity”

This is how one might sum up this second cultural trend. This is certainly a welcome development given that it will equally benefit both the user and the environment. By contrast, those who surround themselves with disposable products are actively contributing to wasting resources and destroying the environment.

That said, another more personal effect should not be underestimated, either:

A person who surrounds themselves with lower-quality products will lower their own self-esteem.

This is easy to explain in psychological terms – and indeed has been proven empirically. By contrast, high-quality products tend to have a positive impact on our self-esteem. Or at least they do if they are selected consciously and used meaningfully. Reducing consumption to a reasonable level is a proven means of lowering stress and increasing one’s own sense of satisfaction.

To sum up, we would make two concrete recommendations for reducing everyday stress:

  1. Avoid “information spamming” as best you can and do not expose yourself to negative news that is not directly relevant to your life and that you cannot influence in any case.
  2. Buy as little as possible, and buy the highest quality you can afford.

And perhaps you might give a one-hand watch like the UNO a try, thereby treating yourself to a more conscious approach to time.

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