Is Design Dead?

As I read through my copy of the CEDIA Electronic Lifestyles Designer Awards, I can’t help but ask, what happened to design?

Room after room of raised wood cornicing and acoustic fabrics, where only stain and color vary slightly, if at all.   It seems the style of the home, period of architecture, and personality of the client, all take a backseat to a packaged design that the AV integrator regurgitates time and time again like a mother bird feeding their young.

To be fair, there are a couple standouts in the mix, and the most interesting design elements displayed all seem to be in the oddest of places. . .the ceiling.

Maybe the integrators have the view of their clients that they are elite aristocrats whose nose angle places their eyes on the ceiling first.  I do not share in this perception.

If all of the examples are in art nouveau or deco inspired homes, I take it all back!  However, I will go out on a limb and say they are not.

So how do we get design back into AV?  How about by returning to a foundation of Craftsmanship?  Can we once again learn to design to our environment and clientele, instead of to the parameters of the acoustic materials manufacturers’ premade kits, or our cabinetmakers set off the shelf sizes?  Quality costs a little more, but I would wager none of the rooms are relatively cheap.  A client spending $151 – $210k (as one category states)  to get walnut paneling over gold carpet and gold panels with black leather seats, would surely pay $166-231k to get something that none of his neighbors have ever seen or heard before, wouldn’t they???

Why are Disney Parks so wildly popular, despite access to “better” rides all around at other venues?  I would argue it is because they provide an immersive, cohesive experience that completely entrances the one experiencing it, and melds seamlessly with its surroundings.

Why would you choose to consume anything different?  A few will go on technical merit, and even fewer will strive for functional perfection at the ultimate cost of any aesthetic, but the majority, would much prefer to have a rounded space that is consistent with their likes and style, without compromising the ultimate integrity of the movie watching experience.

As an industry, I think we should applaud firms like Aurant in Utah, or Phoenix Home Theater in Arizona, http://phoenixhometheater.com/splash.html (see image 9 in the gallery for the FLW inspired home) who think of ways to satisfy a client’s unique tastes, while delivering awesome sound and video.  If we all took a page out of that book, we might reverse the notion that a dedicated home theater is a poor use of resources.

The point isn’t that every theater should have an over the top theme.  Whether you want an Art Deco theater or the inside of the USS Enterprise is neither here nor there, it is hiring someone who can give you the choice.

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