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From the Design Desk: Hyper-Customization

My father gave me my very first cell phone when I graduated high school.  It had a switchable faceplate, and he had replaced the generic black plate with a bright yellow one (My dad was awesome).  Now, I have a nice shiny white iPhone – with a yellow case, naturally.  You wouldn’t believe the trouble I had finding a phone case that I liked.  The ones in the store were too generic, too trendy, too plain or too practical.  Finally I found one that felt right – one that felt like me. [caption id="attachment_213" align="alignnone" width="240" caption="Cartoon by Doug Savage"][/caption] Did you know there are websites where you can custom design your own cell phone covers, laptop cases and decals?  Wall decals have become a quick and easy way to customize a room without committing to paint and stencils.  Car wraps and window decals have also grown in popularity.  I was in a craft store today and they were selling computer mice that coordinated with a whole set of office décor – zebra print, bejeweled, and polka-dotted.   What is it about these things that make them so appealing?  I think it has to do with maintaining our sense of individuality in an increasingly generic world.  There are five of us in the office with the exact same phone – but if we sat them side by side, we’d still know whose was whose because of the cases, not to mention the wallpapers, lock screens, and ringtones. Over the past few decades, the shift towards pre-planned suburban landscapes (think cookie-cutter homes ), the abundance of technology, and the popularity of big box stores like Wal-Mart have inspired us to find creative solutions to maintaining a sense of the unique.  To me, this idea of hyper customization is all a part of the same trend that I mentioned a few months ago when I talked about “everything old is new again”.  We’re remembering the time when everything was made by hand – when one-of-a-kind was the standard, instead of a luxury.  The same is absolutely true in design. Companies that strive to maintain an identity in an increasingly saturated marketplace are looking to design to help them create a brand image that stands out and feels fresh, not generic.  Even as advanced as design technology has become, more and more I see the popularity of hand-lettered type and illustration in corporate identities. So maybe next time, instead of diving straight into Illustrator, I’ll pull out my trusty black yellow sketch book, and do things the old-fashioned way.

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