“Worry” is the dominant consumer mood of the last decade argues Bonnie Carlson in Ad Age, and who is to argue with her list of causes, from 9/11, to Middle East wars to Tsunamis, Hurricanes, Financial Crises. Put like that my instinct is “make mine a double, barman, and have one for yourself”, but sensible consumers have responded with fortitude and pragmatism, played out as making lists.
Like Carlson’s own list, ticking off the events that have made the decade an anxiety fuelled one, consumers reacted with a greater desire for control and simplicity. Making lists has featured in self-help culture for the last decade as employees struggle to cope with the amount of digital information and increased workload. But according to Carlson, the list has become a default tool of consumer culture, “Seventy-one percent of shoppers make a list (digital or paper), and 81% conduct research online before hitting the store.”
The curator of all things visually list-like is Austin Radcliffe and his site Things Organised Neatly which redefines “neatness” as visual minimalism, no matter how many objects appear in the image, they are organized with tactful simplicity.
CBS news recently described Radcliffe’s site as “a haven for web surfers with obsessive compulsive disorder”, but it does tap into something deeper in the culture. It’s likely that as the economy remains sluggish that the ‘list-like’ will appeal to consumers’ sense of being more careful about their spending and lifestyle in general.
We’ve previously noted the list in ad culture, and the trend will be played out visually in concepts such as ‘organization’, ‘control’, ‘efficiency’, ‘prudence’, ‘simplicity’, ‘care’. And when we say it’s a ‘neat’ trend, it really is neat.