Emotional Design by Zoe Barker Design

Do you believe in the joy of the unnecessary?

Yes it’s amazing to have something functional and sensible and I’m sure many of us agree that much of our purchasing brings us happiness or makes our lives that little bit easier. However, does anyone else question a purchase when it isn’t vital or necessary? I do. If I love the aesthetics of a product but it has no obvious function I question why I need it and if it is really essential for me to buy it. This serves a purpose of course – it helps me manage my spending. However I believe that once in a while we should totally disregard this obsession with buying for obvious functionality and explore the concept of buying because it brings us joy.

Many moons ago, I wrote my dissertation at university on this very subject. I was at the forefront of the digital textile movement, studying on the first course offered in the UK. I had come from a Graphic Design background and wanted to fulfill my dreams of designing in the Fashion and Textiles industry. At the time, our cultural desires had become less about quality and more about what the biggest celebrity was wearing or using and how we could have it ‘now’. Primark was at its peak and absolutely everything was about fast fashion – cheap clothes and lots of them, also known as throw-away fashion. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I felt so bothered by this fast fashion world. There were the obvious environmental factors but although concerned, I was not an eco-warrier and I loved new additions to my wardrobe. My dissertation set out to explore how and why I felt this way about the fast fashion world and what would change my attitude and maybe other peoples attitudes too.

Amazingly, I have discovered that over a decade later I am still preaching my concept, which is rooted in the joy of the unneccesary. In other words – buying for love.

I’m not sure you know but I am into wellbeing and looking after ones self. I could learn from myself as I do tend to work too late, commit to too much and I have far too few holidays but I also remind myself to take time out, listen to the birds singing and practice some yoga and breathing exercises regularly. Something that I am also passionate about is surrounding myself with things I love. And I’m not talking family – that’s a given. I am talking about actual things, that look pretty, that I have purchased because they make me feel warm inside or because for some reason they stayed in my mind and I had to go back for them. I really do think that you can appreciate something just because. Because you love the colours, the pattern, the story behind it or its design. If a non-essential product promotes some happiness when you look at it go with it, guilt free!

And this is why I do what I do. When I graduated, the UK was in trouble financially and there were less and less jobs for creatives like me, which led to me working for free for high end labels to get my foot in the door – despite interning throughout university and having bags of design experience prior to studying. To be honest I felt used and under-valued and this is when I made a decision to be true to myself and design my way. I wanted to feel valued but more than this, I wanted to promote wellbeing and happiness through design and change people’s perceptions. This was a challenge. Spending was at an all time low and with commodities being produced cheaply there was little room for independent designer makers in the market. For a start, from a designer maker’s point of view it was impossible to compete with retail prices and with design graduates like myself working for free, good designs were in abundance. I had to do something different. It has been an up-hill struggle as even my target market at this time, were cutting down on spending and questioning the time and energy I put in – it was soul-destroying. Everything I had trained to do seemed like a waste at this time. Slowly and surely I picked myself up and persevered with what I believed in – an investment in design.

I don’t know about you, but if I invest more money in something I respect it, care for it and am more likely to give it a good second home rather than disregarding its existence in a second, that said I don’t avoid Primark altogether – but I do approach my shopping habits in a different way – a more emotional way. Perhaps this is because I am a designer, an eco warrior or because I have acquired insider knowlegde on my design journey. Whatever the reason I found some facts impossible to ignore and set about promoting more emotional spending through my own work.

The joy of the unnecessary sums up my vision. We shouldn’t feel guilty about loving something purely for its aesthetics. My work is all about aesthetics. I often joke that I create pretty patterns for a living, when in fact it goes much deeper than this. I create stories. I want to evoke emotions. I want you to love what you see. To do this I have honed a style that is intricate, beautiful and magical. With each look you’ll spot something new in a design, be it a brush stroke or an illustration hidden in woodland or fauna. I take an artisan approach, whereby everything is drawn or painted by hand – this personal touch makes my work so much more tangible and loveable because these drawings have been created deliberately, with purpose, for you.

At the heart of all my work is the aesthetics and I’m proud to create designs that are sustainable in my clients minds, hearts and in printed form. You won’t forget your story.

So perhaps, the unnecessary is in fact more necessary than we thought?

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