Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Living in design

Today I got up at 6 am to fly to New York for work. I have air travel down to a science - at this point I just have it totally dialed in. I know how long it takes to drive, park, check in, stand in line, etc. I can cut it close now.

I have my "travel clothes". My pre-packed bags ready to grab and go. I know exactly how much metal I can wear through the detector. I can take my shoes off, doff my coat, and whip my laptop out of my bag faster than most people can pick up one of those gray bins. It's like ballet.

Walking through that space with my headphones in, I am basically the embodiment of every ad in Wired or Fast Company. "Living the dream", flying from SFO to JFK on a hot new airline with a Timbuk2 bag full of the latest in digital music technology so I can go talk to people at MTV.

It's ridiculous and marvelous. I wonder how I got here, living in this entirely designed experience?

I flew Virgin America today. They leave out of SFO's International terminal, which is a beautiful place. Almost a totally different airport - marble floors, clean walls, lots of light and space. Not too crowded. Beautiful minerals exhibit outside security.

I took a gypsy cab into the city. Must be the medication I'm on - I would never normally do that and only wondered if I'd end up dead in a ditch once!

So I'm at the W. Another heavily "designed" experience. Dark hallways. Mood lighting. Downtempo music. Modern room furniture.

Like Target, these experiences constitute a layer of design pasted over what is essentially a "budget" experience. Take away Virgin's fancy lighting and techno music and you have, well, JetBlue. Or Southwest.

Visiting the "W", one starts to think it's so damn dark because it hides the stains on the carpet and the poorly-finished room corners and bathroom fixtures. Turn up the lights, turn off the looping downtempo CD playing when you enter the room and you're basically in a Marriott Business Jail with "modern" furniture instead of traditional American Hotel Awful. And in Times Square, that "budget" experience is still north of $600.

Even if living in design is basically the same as living without, it's more fun.

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