marketing | October 23, 2012

Significant Objects: Our Favorite Rob Walker Pieces from Design Observer

Rob Walker is one of the most original, observant, and certainly prolific, authors writing about our relationship to consumer products and new digital experiences. In his recently co-authored book, Significant Objects, he gathered dozens of cutting edge writers (Sheila Heti, Jonathan Lethem) and asked them to write stories about objects he'd bought at thrift stores. He then used these fictional pieces as eBay descriptions and sold the products—for a hefty mark up—on the popular online marketplace. The point was to highlight the important role that narrative plays in our relationship to our experiences. Over at Design Observer, Walker produces a steady stream of shorter think pieces that further map our shifting acceptance of brands, consumer behavior, and physical and aesthetic phenomenon.

Here are a few of our favorite current pieces:

"Killing for Beautiful Objects"
"We connect beauty to notions of existence that transcend this world," Walker writes in this dark, yet chillingly accurate, piece about the Ivory trade and the human propensity to kill or maim in order to obtain aesthetically beautiful items.

"Listening to Retail"
Despite buzzing in and out of our ears at numerous intervals each day, the sounds of the retail industry tend to just wash over us. In this piece, however, Walker asks us to stop and listen, really listen, the next time we are surrounded by ringing cash registers and bustling shoppers to acknowledge what brands not only look like, but also what they sound like.

"Crowdcrit vs. Apple Maps"
Any iPhone users that were enraged when Apple's iOS mapping application failed to lived up to expectations (or, as many argue, just failed, period) will find solace in the fact that they weren't alone. This article explores the culture of the crowd critique, the power that collective Internet criticism can have on the reputation of a product or service, and the creative lengths critics will go to when cutting a product down to size. 

"Card Tricks"
Lovers of tangible, non-digital objects, rejoice! Analog isn't being destroyed by the digital, but rather, it's becoming romanticized and glorified. Walker cites the adaptation of the still-relevant business card as proof.

"High Caliber Expression"
"The visceral emotion that a bullet-riddled book captures makes a mighty argument for the power of words to spark a reaction." Walker encourages us to lodge a bullet into the pages of a hated piece of literature, and see how we feel about it—novelist Richard Ford did it, after all.