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Reading The Everyday

January 2nd, 2008 · 4 Comments

Originally, I started a generic post on the business or marketing books I’ve read this year. But there’s only really one book I want to write about, because I think the ideas in it are incredibly important to anyone in marketing or product design. These ideas are also the ones that seem to be the most ignored.

The most useful book I’ve read this year has been Joe Moran‘s Reading The Everyday. It is entirely about the mundane things in our lives; commuting, parking, working, service stations, renting or owning property. First, some extracts (emphasis mine) –

From Workspace:
the behaviour required of call-centre workers is similar to that required at McDonald’s – ‘a very stripped-down kind of interactive style, with some pseudo-Gemeinschaft thrown in’ …[like] a comment made, without apparent irony, by a member of the training staff at McDonald’s Hamburger University: ‘we want to treat each customer as an individual, in sixty seconds, or less’.

From Urban Space:
20 Sites‘… reveals the hidden temporality of the everyday by registering infinitesimal changes. A milkman delivers bottles in 1981, soon to become a historical curiosity; Giles Gilbert Scott’s red telephone box morphs into the more functional glass kiosk of the 1980s; satellite dishes sprout from roofs, then shrink or disappear as newer technologies make them redundant; the Peckham Odeon is knocked down, under pressure from the multiplexes. Some of these changes show the intrusion of market values into everyday spaces, but many of them are not so easily attributable.

From Non-Places:
‘Mondeo Man’ has… been caricatured… as someone who simply wants to retreat from the public sphere into the apolitical sphere of everyday life… an aspirational but insecure figure. He feels he has worked hard for his mid-range car, semi-detached suburban home and foreign holidays, and is keen to hold on to them by opposing excessive tax burdens and other forms of government interference… [This] argument obscures a complex relationship between the monitoring and anticipation of public opinion. ‘Mondeo Man’ may reflect a demographic reality, but he is also an invented (and gendered) construction, which may help to dissuade governments from taking difficult political decisions.

From Living Spaces:
The makeovers in Changing Rooms and similar programmes are not generally motivated with how rooms will be lived in after the dramatic ‘reveal’. To employ Judy Attfield’s useful distinction, such shows elevate a notion of design, which she defines as ‘things with attitude’, over the banal reality of material culture, which she calls ‘design in the lower case’. This concept of design specifically excludes ‘the disordered everyday clutter of the mundane’, the vast majority of objects and materials that do not form part of the conspicuous display of taste and style.

All of the above feel like a challenge to design and market better for the lives that people actually live – to make something that fits around our everyday lives and makes them better. To go back to the quotation about different kinds of design, the iPod would be an example, however obvious, of something that cuts across both kinds of ‘design’ as mentioned in the last quotation. It’s an elegant piece of design, and quite obviously a thing with attitude – but one of the things it does best is to make people less bored on a commute.

The book’s relentless focus on mundanity is an important reminder that the mundane something in which everyone partakes. Unless your product is aimed exclusively at members of royal families and Jay-Z, your target market is going to call call centres, find parking spaces, deal with clutter. I always feel deeply uncomfortable when I hear a marketer use the phrase ‘average person’ or ‘ordinary person’ – this is a thoroughly considered reminder that we are all ordinary people when we deal with the ordinary.

Categories: marketing · product
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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Infovore » links for 2008-01-02 // Jan 3, 2008 at 12:22 am

    […] Reading The Everyday “Originally, I started a generic post on the business or marketing books I’ve read this year. But there’s only really one book I want to write about, because I think the ideas in it are incredibly important to anyone in marketing or product design. “ (tags: joemoran business marketing design product culture society psychology book review) […]

  • 2 Nina // Jan 3, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Very pleased to see the link to 20 sites, I’ve tried to find this online a number of times over the past 5 or 6 years and now there it is! One of my favourite art projects!

  • 3 Infovore » Blog all dog-eared pages: Joe Moran, Reading the Everyday // Feb 17, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    […] the Everyday from work several years ago, and only recently got around to reading it, in part after Alex’s hugely enthusiastic feedback. It turned out to be a wonderful read. I’m not particularly well-versed in cultural studies, […]

  • 4 jenny // Nov 24, 2008 at 3:15 am

    hes my lecturer at uni,
    and hes brilliant!!!!!