Matt Nuccio. "The Relatively of Cool."
Toy & Family Entertainment, June 2014
Many moons ago, before I was married, before I had kids, I accompanied my cousin, his wife and kids in their new mini van on a pumpkin picking outing somewhere out on the east end of Long Island. It was a long drive from the city and the traffic was as horrific as New York traffic can be. We ended up arriving much later then we had anticipated and finding a parking space had become a real nightmare. After driving around in circles for at least 30 minutes without any success we finally spotted an open parking space a short distance up ahead. As we confidently raced to position, certain the space was ours, another mini van came screaching around the corner and took the spot. In the frustration of the moment my cousin's wife abrubtly proclaimed “They think they're so cool because they drive a Honda Odyssey”. It was at this precise moment that it dawned on me, coolness is relative.
Webster's Dictionary defines the slang use of the word “Cool” as “Fashionalby Hip”. In essence, one's coolness is dicated by their individual sense of fashion and how it relates to the world around them. What is maybe “cool” on the Country Music scene may be completely juxtaposed in Hip Hop and a direct reflection of the world around them. As a single 20 something year-old in New York City, a suburban world with a hierarchy of mini vans blew my mind. My first reaction was one of laughter simply because it seemed so foreign to me. I had a hard time comprehending how any mini van could be preceived as cool. But, as a designer, the epiphany that a mini van could be cool was indeed eye opening.
Design schools are full of students trying to out-cool one another. When recent graduates apply for positions at Design Edge, I can usually tell they recently graduated without even looking at their resume simply by their sense of “cool” as reflected in their portoflio. It seems many students and novices are always striving for a visual coolness that can never quite be fully realized. Why can't it be fully realized? ...Why- because coolness is relative to subcults and locations and personal interpretion, “cool” is not a mere blanket sentimentality. Most students and novices design everything based on sensibilites force fed and established by the entertainment and fashion industries, they are not thinking of the suburban mother and her mini van out on Long Island, in Ohio or in Walla Walla Washington. They'll design toothpaste packaging with tweeny pop music flare instead of a sense of suburban house décor. Design is not the perception of hipness in popular culture but rather the a character study of individuals and how they live their day-to-day lives. Design needs to speak to them on their level and not make them feel excluded.