I know, I know, moderation doesn't sound interesting. Believe me, I'm not normally a person who takes well to moderation; quite the opposite - I've traditionally clung to extremes. Go big or stay home, right? It's always been that way for me: in school (last minute all-nighters), at work (a gazillion client visits one week and none the next), with my health (extreme diet and exercise or complete couch potato) and even in design (decorating my new home to obsessive perfection in the first two days).
But I've been reading spiritual/business/self-improvement books lately, along with my usual design and news sites, and the word "moderation" seems to be glaring back at me from every page. So maybe it's worth examining.
For example, the classic best seller The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma has made me revisit how I am going to treat my physical and mental health in 2013. I am performing the recommended 10 Ancient Rituals of Radiant Living daily. It's all about cultivating your mind and body to live a meaningful and enlightened life. The book advocates repeatedly the wisdom of "everything in moderation." By beginning a new way of living, slowly at first, and adding in more and more mindful practices each day, new and healthy habits will slowly form, and, here's the kicker: they will stick. It's what nutritionists have been saying about eating healthy for years (lose 2 lbs a week by eating sensibly) but of course, I always wanted the quick results. Maybe its my wise old age (ahem), but I think it's finally time to give this moderation thing a try. The quick results don't often last, and certainly aren't as fulfilling. As they say, the journey is the destination.
So what does all of this have to do with design? Everything, actually. Our desire (at least in the western world) for everything to be built big and fast has driven us to a place of unnecesary urban sprawl, overconsumption, and sometimes poor quality craftsmanship. Why are we obsessed with excess? We want either luxurious mansions or solar-heated 800 sqft. green homes. What if we simply took moderate steps toward living sustainably? We may not be able to build LEED certified, but we can source locally and we can build for what we will need now as well as 20 years from now, so we won't need two or three different houses over our lifetime. We can buy antique furniture that will last another two generations, and we can reclaim materials to decorate our homes. Sustainability and affordability in design is all about moderation, when we really think about it.
This interesting article by Lloyd Alter, a sustainable design prof at Ryerson University, talks about the need for better design in order to use less, live well in moderation, and therefore do our part for a sustainable planet. I'm all for it.
Living a healthy, happy, successful and comfortable life is achievable if we design our lives better. Everything from our homes to our morning routines to the food we eat to the ways in which we entertain ourselves can be more fulfilling and more sustainable if we can think a little more moderately. That's my goal for 2013.