Today’s insatiable consumerism with the latest, greatest digital devices has brought us every feasible type of entertainment and media at our fingertips. Cell phones older than a year are incredulously considered Jurassic technology. We could hardly imagine a world without must-have applications such as iTunes, delivering every song, movie and novel on demand. Hot items such as the iPad and Kindle ensure that we will always have our favorite newspaper and stay on top of the best sellers. These streamlined digital tools are making our lives less cluttered and more efficient. What more could people want? The constant acquisition of the hottest new gadget seems to be leaving us wanting something more, something else, something tangible.
A nostalgic desire for a simplified, tactile world has found its way back into our hearts. The age of soulless homogenous branding has had its cage shaken. Although the “always on brand, always on message” perfectly manicured corporate brands aren’t going to completely disappear anytime soon, we are seeing a deep need to return to what is truly important and timeless. Perhaps it’s the recession that has reminded us about what we are yearning for to feed our souls? The desire for texture, for awakening our senses, for the scrumptious tactile feeling of fine paper under our fingertips. There is truly a visual feast found in artisan craftsmanship.
As creative professionals, increasingly more of our work has become digitized, so every trip to the printer fills me with a strange joy. I’ve missed the unmistakable scent of printers ink. The perfection in the imperfection of beautifully handset type, and the almost musical sound of an old foot operated letterpress. Knowing that someone has put care, thought and creativity into their craft, results in pure treasure. It’s the human connection one feels in such objects; not just to the craftspeople who forge these things, but to the generations to come; that these ideas and objects will also come to touch. And with this renewed desire for human connection, there has been a resurgence of the tangible.
Independent bookshops are miraculously popping back up. Communities such as Briar Press have sprouted from a common dedication to the preservation of the art of letterpress. Handcrafted and individually packaged food items, such as the delectable chocolates by Brooklyn’s Mast Brothers Chocolate (cacao nibs are even transported by sailboat!) are more cherished than commercially mass produced brands. People have no problem standing in long lines to sample the artisan cheeses at Mt. Townsend’s Creamery and small craft beer breweries such as Sound Brewery have loyal imbibers that savor the lovingly brewed liquid gold. In a time when communication has been reduced to ‘twitter’ and feels more like chatter, the deep desire for the human connection has once again blossomed.