Joe Strummer, Wabi-Sabi, and the Fate of the Beautiful


I’ve been accused on multiple occasions of being a music snob. I am not a music snob.

I’ve also been accused of hating what is popular, simply because it is popular. This also is untrue.

Popular is usually shiny, a bit too perfect, and ultimately quite fake.

This is why Joe Strummer will always be better than any auto-tuned, packaged, top 40, american idol.

Joe strummer was authentic. Not because he was perfect, but because of his flaws.

Authenticity is a hard thing to come by these days. Sometimes it’s hard to convey what is real.

I’ve been leaning hard on the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi, The beauty of imperfection.

Wabi-Sabi carries emotion more than awe. The comfort of lived in furniture. The satisfaction of hand crafting a fence. The freedom from chasing the unattainable.

How does that relate to online UX?

Here’s how : The beautiful site has become ordinary and by that, untrustworthy. The site which promises value, but my not be pristine now has the advantage.

Oddly, the same ham-fisted “designers” who tell me they love things like Google and the iPod and Tivo, are the same to push a huge happy falsely designed world at me at every design review.

(sidebar: what the hell happened to subtlety?)

And then there’s a small, but very vocal group of people hollering about “Ugly Design” and promoting an aesthetic that is by design, horrific and just plain creepy.

Authentic is not beauty or ugliness… authentic is emotional reality, proven in design.

Grab a book on Wabi-Sabi… see where it takes you.


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