The Stages of Life – Simplified Version

Having established that Design is not for just anyone, or worse, EVERYONE, lets see how and when it starts becoming a real need in our lives.

There are possibly infinite definitions to the stages of human life, and this version has been stripped to the basics.

Specifics and age-parameters are subjective and will vary from one individual to the next, and this version is used to illustrate how Design consciousness, hence, need, grows for someone from a typical working-class.

Design consciousness within this context refers to the awareness/ realization of how things are not working within living spaces, and understanding that there are ways to make things better, often through Design products or services.

< 18 years
As a young child to adolescence, through teenagehood presumably having grown-up in and fully accustomed to the comforts of a functional family home, Design is likely a nonexistent concept, the necessities having been taken care of by the adults.

< 22 years
As a university student busy with school activities living away from the family home, the dorm or rental apartment is often simply a place to sleep at night or study. A quick trip to the closest furniture store or short respite back home would usually suffice to remedy basic functional needs. There could be happy attempts at accessorizing and personalizing their space with decorative objects. Design is limited to its superficial aspects and its true form is likely far from mind.

< 26 years
A fresh graduate starting his first job with a (assumed) minimal pay, whilst leaving him less freely disposable time may begin to see the need for Design while living in his first rental room or shared-apartment where he lives to be closer to work, farther away from the family home (while some could also still be comfortably living with their parents, hence the need does not arise)

< 30 years
An experienced young professional who has worked several years, has a decent income and now fully independent – both mentally and financially may actually invest in Design after having experienced substandard spaces.

< 35 years
A young couple who have been working several years and looking to move into their first home together – or who have already moved in together and experienced a new way of living as 2 people in a single space – would likely start investing in Design, starting perhaps with semi-customized furniture (e.g. putting together IKEA modular systems) while keeping an eye on expenditure or invest a small sum in customized spaces.

<> 38 years
A matured couple in senior positions with better incomes and a growing family would have a much greater need and have the necessary financial capacity to consider fully-customized Design (be they Interior Design/ specific Product Design objects) as by then the home must not only be comfortable, but preferably extremely efficient. They may also have developed their sensitivity and preferences for particular aesthetic languages, and actually have pockets deep enough to be able to indulge in that.


What Changes Along the Way? Why does Realization Dawn?

Growing up (and older) the average person tends to start getting to know themselves better.

Living on their own, independently, out of their parents shadow (care) and domination, one tends to develop their own sensitivity, and deeper understanding of their own needs and preferences. Co-living experiences with others along the way adds the third dimension to this development. The learning of ‘toleration’ and further enlightenment of one’s pet peeves due to the existence of co-living-mates providing hopefully the full spectrum of both commendable and disgusting behaviors to learn from or condemn.

Physiologically, the aging process also starts taking its toll. One starts to develop physical weaknesses/ sensitivities which necessitate better solutions. E.g. ergonomic arm chairs that actually support the back instead of the standard multi-purpose one-seater sofa a neighbour gave to you because they no longer wanted it, or task chairs to work at desks instead of using that dining barstool – because you finally realize what a world of a difference they actually made.

The awareness and realization of ones needs and the desire to improve ones existing condition brings about Design consciousness, which leads to the search for better solutions.

And that’s when one starts to realize the relevance of Design – and it is not about what colour it comes in.


So, are You and Design Meant to Be?

In simple terms, Design – whether in terms of a product (a specific type of table lamp, or armchair, etc) or service (someone that re-layouts your home) could be for you IF you meet the following criterias:

1. Your Basic Needs have been met i.e. you are clothed, fed, have a shelter to call home.

2. You want to live better: efficiently and comfortably.

3. You have the means i.e. excess income to make it happen.

Remember though that designing to live better does not mean emptying the bank account. It does mean a considered approach and good balance of mix and match to maximize comfort and aesthetics within a budget determined by the end user/ homeowner.

For those higher up the food chain, basic functional needs become implicit, and the question will then come to aesthetic preferences, preciousness of material, and the consideration of portraying a personal style.

True Design is not a copy and paste exercise but one that grows organically, and always begins by addressing core functional needs which are then dressed up in the user’s preferred aesthetic.

Food for Thought

If you can (somewhat) relate to the growth path described above, do stop and consider – where are you today in Design-consciousness terms, and are you and Design meant to be?

The writer is an Interior Designer who has lived in multiple dimensions and now seeks to bridge the Design gap between Worlds.