On the design of useless Irish things

Being a cut-and-paste job from a rambling email exchange, this may be a bit haphazard; you get what you pay for.

There’s a site, foundmagazine.com, that has loads of photos, shopping lists, tickets, etc. that people picked up and sent in. I tried doing the same here for a while, but there’s not much interesting about soggy Bus Eireann tickets and dirty Major stubs.

Being in London a good few times in the last couple of years, I kind of got to thinking that Ireland is ‘under-designed’. There’s not a huge amount of visual stimulation to be had, natural features excepted of course. In London, design is everywhere: buildings, bridges, posters, advertisments, exhibitions, graffiti, etc. I even noticed that the content of ads and billboards are much more sophisticated over there (although this could be a demographic thing).

I wouldn’t like things around here to become any more hyper-commercialied, but it would be nice if there was more of an aesthetic (good or bad) to what is around - like your ticket has.

And snips from the reply:

I think Ireland is in a period of transition. Chaos rules the roost right now, but look back in time, mid 20th century. Shop fronts, pubs, post offices, news papers, cartons of milk, bills from the ESB, Telecom Eireann phone boxes, clothes, attitudes, religious beliefs, thinking, attitudes, nationality of inhabitants, all recognizable as being Irish, very homogenous no doubt about it.

I am excited by what is happening in Ireland right now, but also very afraid that it could all go wrong. Look at all the American mall type crap jumping up outside every town. That roundabout outside Athlone is a joke. There was nothing there four years ago, now McDonalds, Woodies DIY… have all arrived. Sure, jobs are being created but there’s nothing worse than a huge eyesore built for the sole purpose of allowing people to blow their money on shite.

You are right though, an aesthetic quality to the simplest of things, the crap we find on the street, is important, because if what we nonchalantly discard is aesthetically pleasing well designed items then I think we are doing well. It’s like having the confidence to throw money away as if to say, plenty more where that came from. Maybe not?

Design in Ireland is in an interesting place at the moment. I would just as soon (or sooner) like to see a hand-scrawled, misspelled sign as a well-designed advertisment. I just hope we don’t get stuck somewhere in between, where character, stimulation and individuality are lost completely, and where you wouldn’t pick up a piece of rubbish out of lack of interest.

— 22 Aug 2005