choice can be difficult

I’ve been thinking a bit about choice in design. This was triggered by an article last month by Aaron Shapiro on the web site Fast Company. He is the CEO of Huge and started the article by talking about the “tyranny of choice.”  He had been looking for the board game Monopoly to buy on line and reckoned there were 2,767 versions available.

He went on to point out that someone has calculated that we make 35,000 decisions a day. Now most mornings it takes me about 10 minutes to decide if I want tea first and then coffee or if it would be a good idea to cut straight to the coffee. I’m not actually sure how I get through the other 34,999. Maybe that’s why I need the caffeine.

He discussed how, because we have to make so many decisions, we end up making bad decisions. But then, as he developed this proposition, he began to loose my support … he started to talk about 'taming and training data' and 'anticipatory design' to make the 'needless choices' in our lives. Maybe I can’t always be sure if I want coffee or tea but I certainly am sure that I don’t want Google or my fridge making decisions for me based on what they think I think I want.

But then when it comes to design and design stores that hope for a wide choice when looking for something becomes difficult … there is just so much design out there. Even in large design shops like Illums Bolighus or Paustian in Copenhagen they cannot stock or display everything that is currently made … how could they show you every chair for every conceivable need or taste for instance? So, even in those stores, the customer looks to the skill of the department buyers and the shop staff with their knowledge to focus down and edit that choice.

For smaller design shops their even-more limited space means the exact choice for their stock becomes ever more crucial but this can actually be a selling point. If you can see what a shop has focused on and if that chimes with your own taste or seems to offer what you are looking for then going to that shop is a quick way to concentrate on what may be your best options.

Obviously the following posts are not about design shops with a limited choice, because that would, I guess, suggest something slightly negative and restricted, so let’s call this a series of post about shops in Copenhagen with a selection that is clearly and carefully focused. It’s the idea of a shop that is carefully curated so certainly, in the broader spectrum of the retail world, much much much closer to a gallery than to any pile-it-high-sell-it-cheap design store.