Sunday, November 09, 2008

Stacks, packaging and junk mail

I don't know about you but stacks have become a normal part of my life. They infiltrate my home, garage, office and sometimes my car. How do they get there? Why can't I get rid of them. Without question stacks are my doing. I get things in the mail, bring things home from work, accumulate things.

My "purge" process is simple really: Do an initial "weed" through and move the stuff I don't want into the "trash" stack. Next I take the stuff I want and make the "keep" stack. That "keep" stack is then moved to a place such as the location above. There it sits for days on end. Lonely, heart broken, yearning to perhaps be filtered again and maybe moved to a better spot. After a week the "keep" stack should be considered trash shouldn't it? Not in my world. I filter it again and make yet another stack, which then is joined by other pieces because by this time, new material has been brought into the situation. Pick it up, move it, move it back, add new things, and on and on. It's an evil cycle an eventually all of it gets thrown out because of frustration. Then, of course, a couple days after I chuck the remnants of the "keep" stack I usually find myself looking for something that was tossed.

Look, as a graphic designer I love packaging. I am not alone either. How many of us have bought things based on the packaging? Yeah, I thought so. I'll buy a bottle of wine because of the cool label! I am convinced that if the label design is slick, the product must be good too. Look at all the toiletry products with crazy bottle shapes. I guess you have to somehow differentiate your "insert aromatherapy crap name here" from your competitors since most of it is the same, using the same exotic herb from some mysterious place. I buy a tiny, portable stereo for my iPod and the packaging accounts for most of the girth. There's the box of course, the plastic adult-proof sealed thingy that you must machete through, the cardboard protection, the manual, the registration sheet, the remote control and the cardboard box it came in and finally the foam sheet liner that keeps it all in place. The carbon footprint on this $39 electronic bit is mind-boggling.

"Hey, here's a sweet website you can go to, to get your name off the junk mail-catalog list," says a tree-hugging friend of mine. "Sweet! I'll try it out" I say. I did it. Checked off all the catalogs I get and don't want, all the catalogs I don't want but get and everything in between. Sure enough, I get even more and I still get the ones I supposedly checked off. I half-way think I signed up for more in some mysterious, marketing way.

So now I have too much junk mail, way too much packaging that I throw away (gets recycled... hopefully) and islands of stacks that have just become a part of my life. Funny thing is that I am not alone. Multiply my situation by millions of others and we have a crapload of, well, crap.