OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DESIGN: COLOR

Updated: May 26

*Trigger alert: this post contains graphic content that isn't advised for those easily influenced*


It seems like color can no longer be applied spontaneously into a design, instead it has to be controlled and obsessively organized.

Book shelves, playrooms, closets, cabinets and even drawers, basically any space that is characterized by its multi-color content, suddenly appear to have a disturbing common theme: color categorizing.

Bookshelves are a key feature in the house for most of us. Beyond their visual aesthetic, they reflect our personality, sophistication (or lack of it) and... drum roll... design method!

Affected by the greater power of pointless color coding, books now serve merely as a decorative statement while meticulously organized in rainbow order, or flipped backwards in the monochrome blending-in version. There's a reason for that placement of specific books, and it's most likely not because they were read and cherished.

Clever magazine published a great piece about this literary parading, and from there I rapidly went down the rabbit hole, discovering a whole new niche of companies, like Juniper Books, offering sets of books curated by size or color, to match your style and/or bookshelves dimensions. Don't mind the content, it's only the image that counts.

Next on the list, playrooms are extremely popular targets for professional organizers due to their psychedelic tendency, combined with perpetual mess promise. So many items to sort by color! And don't get me started on Legos. Sorting Legos became one of the top hobbies (right next to labeling), as if the simple act of keeping Legos in a box isn't challenging enough. As if kids actually clean up after they are done spreading tiny sharp Legos on each and every square inch. So why not add some interest into this mundane life of ours by color-sorting Legos? All you'll need is ton of extra small containers and labels! never mind if the containers are transparent and you can see the color through. Labeling is cute, we all have spare time, and the kids will learn to read cursive.

My apologies if I might have gotten carried away on that part. The impossible combination of kids, design and organization is a matter very close to my heart and my nervous system.

Moving on to the home office. It's a messy paradise that offer abundance of drawers and shelves to be arranged in many unnatural, color-obsessed ways. How many pencils does one need to live happily ever after?

Last, but not least, in the kitchen I've discovered there's apparently a rising demand for drawers that serve one exclusive function. Coffee pods for example, or straws. Yes, they are also color sorted. That's the whole point. And if you are not a huge fan of that blue pod flavor, suck it up, it's for the greater good.

Is it just an obsessive compulsive disorder that some of us suffer from? Is it a new torture in the making? Is it a pandemic affecting design oriented beings? Whatever it is, this unnatural phenomenon disturbs me. I understand the visual appeal of it all, obsessive is my middle name. And I have to admit I'm envious, because I, too, want a coffee pod drawer. But nevertheless, these faux trends simply don't add up to me.

Mies van der Rohe's most famous saying is "Form follows Function", meaning your design should always be driven from a necessity. I've heard that repeatedly as an Architecture student and it's one of the fewer things I haven't neglected to remember. So, does this design serve the owner's need, or has the owner just become the design's slave?

Everyone swears by color coding, but I'll stay strong against it, because they probably swear by paid help who's responsible to keeping it up to code.

Above are real books, in a real bookcase, at the house of the two and only Charles and Ray Eames. No color-coding there.

broken design logo2.jpg
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • White Pinterest Icon
  • White Instagram Icon

Real Design For Real People

© 2020 by Elinor Gefen-Rotstein

Greater Boston Area