SC Exhibitions Magazine 2016 11 Looking down from the Brooklyn Bridge Tower ca 1907 it makes you wonder what became of Uneeda Biscuits From the archives of The Library of Congress Like a giant radio mast before radio was invented the Eiffel Tower ca 1890 from the archives of The Library of Congress The empathy economy is booming and facts are out feelings are in Human Em otion The One T hing the Interne t Can t Buy By MICHAEL ROCK We designers love to fashion ourselves as problem solvers but let s face it The line between solving problems and creating them is blurry at best What problem is being solved by a 1 500 pair of heels or a 150 000 car or a 150 000 000 architectural extrava ganza in the Bois de Boulogne The truth is no matter what de signers say we have never simply answered problems The act of design vacillates between the functional and the beguiling often performing one while claiming the other Le Corbusier dismissed the architecture of his Beaux Arts contemporaries as cloying while he looked longingly to the brutal utility of the grain elevators and factories devised by American engineers Almost a century later Rem Koolhaas jettisoned function in favor of performance Func tionality is boring and performance is really what role does the building play and what kind of scene does the building trigger There has long been an ideological divide between the utilitari an and the emotional between rational design and the decorative arts but the balance of power is shifting In the battle between the head and the gut the gut s now cleaning up The empathy economy is booming Facts are out feelings are in This is attributed at least in part to a kind of brand mania that asserts that everything from your razor blade to your public library to the I R S needs to have a relatable personality Everyone is in the business of brand management artists designers businesses celebrities politicians museums universities armies nations Branding is supposedly not about what something says or what it means but how it makes us feel A brand is a promise It s the putative guarantee of the emotional payoff on an investment in a particular product place or individual So the new handbag makes us feel chic and knowing the laptop savvy and contemporary the vodka suave and sophisticated the museum refined and sensitive Taken in 1948 New York s 52nd Street is flooded with colour From the archives of The Library of Congress

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