On the wall of my office is an old Japanese woodprint of a geisha walking home after a long night of geisha-ing. It’s just dawn, and she carries a lit paper lantern at her side. The geisha’s solitary figure is beautiful and a little melancholy.
The print is part of the shin-hanga art movement of the early 1900s. Shin-hanga was a pushback against the rapid industrialization of Japan, and all of the images are romanticized. There’s a yearning toward tradition and simplicity, things that were lost as Japan entered the modern era. Shin-hanga producers understood this and were highly successful because they knew how to tap into a collective nostalgia.
I say this because understanding what a culture is pushing against is as useful as seeing what that same culture is pushing toward. So what are some analogies in America today?
A human touch. In an era of national chains, and GMOs, many people crave a life that feels organic, authentic, and locally based. This longing drives things like the farm-to-table movement, neighborhood breweries, companies such as Etsy, and even Airbnb.
The 2019 New American Remodel is a perfect example with its on-site orchard, chicken coop, and natural color palette.
Old-school dining rooms and media rooms are being replaced by home offices, which are in turn giving way to the idea that work space is all around us.
In speaking about the home, architect and remodeler Michael Gardner says, “The farm-to-table concept continued all the way to the materials we picked, the different woods, the tiles, everything has that earthy, nature-driven feel. We live in a world of cell phones, but now there’s a place where we can drop all that and get back with nature.”
Redefined work and living spaces. The idea of a work-life balance has been ubiquitous for over a decade, but instead of drawing a line between the two, many Americans are blending them. Maybe they take a few hours off to spend time with a child, and then catch up on work that night. Residential floorplans are changing as a result.
Old-school dining rooms and media rooms are being replaced by home offices, which are in turn giving way to the idea that work space is all around us. Many people are just as likely to catch up on emails in bed as they are to sit down in a formal office environment.
Up next: Privacy. In 2018, Consumer Watchdog released a study on patents from Amazon and Google. The report claimed that these technologies would greatly increase surveillance of people’s lives, by spying on conversations and personal habits. “Looks like you like to play guitar. Have you seen Eastman’s new semi-hollow?”
The tech companies denied all of the findings, but consumers remain concerned about privacy. That worry, combined with the prevalence of cyberattacks, (see our cover story) creates a space for pushback, whether it’s an anti-spying technology or even device-free areas in a home.
Taken together, these concepts provide insight into the current market. What other pushbacks are you seeing?