A Design Philosophy Which Brings a Mindful Approach to a Man's Life
Zenism: (noun) The character or quality of succinctness, integrity, and appreciation for life.
Life is cluttered with information and technology, apps and programs, social expectations and responsibilities, and all the trappings of a modern life. The intention of modern convenience is to free us from the chaotic life and to make life simpler, to reclaim time in the name of thinking and doing things that really matter to us. Yet life seems to be more chaotic than ever.
We have trouble living well despite all our modern conveniences because we have no useful connection to living mindfully. How could we? The economy works best when it keeps us reactive. But well-designed products and services can make our lives more rewarding. Design isn’t just advertising, it has the power to remind us how to live a good life.
My life, like many others, had become complex. I was reacting to all the needs and dramas, and getting distracted from the real experience of living. Because my days had become unnecessarily complicated, I became determined to find a way of simplifying things, so that I could find a life of mindfulness, peace and contentment. Being a creative, I believe that the things I make have real potential to help encourage that kind of life. Both for myself and others.
That’s how the Zenism label came about. It was about making objects that were simple, that encourage a clear mind and a life well lived.
Zenism products are designed to help you experience your life with clarity because the label recognises how quickly our lives become overloaded and distracted. I took a leaf from the book of Zen (a Japanese interpretation of a Chinese interpretation of a Buddhist concept), to design products that bring appreciation for the moment we’re living in. Mindfulness. Rather than designing products that distract people, I wanted to pare things back in a way that would encourage an appreciation for the way things are made. By drawing attention to the feel of the fabric, highlighting the function of the product, or emphasising the construction, men are given a window to pay attention to what really matters in their lives.
Bringing mindfulness to a man’s life also means thinking about our impact
How could you make a product that aims to teach awareness without addressing some key factors of an ethical life? Being mindful is also about developing wisdom and being a gentleman. These aren’t things that happen overnight, they are things that we practice and get better at every day. That’s why Zenism strives to make succinct products which inspire men to live the simple life while providing us with more ethical and sustainable choices. Essentially, the Zenism approach to mindfulness can be summed up as the practice of kindness.
To achieve the Zenism balance, all products are designed with three principles:
1) Careful selection of materials
If Zenism’s philosophy is to spread the practice of kindness, then it needs to start by selecting materials that are gentle and mindful before the creating begins. I started this process of designing for mindfulness with the discovery of an amazing fabric derived from bamboo. The fabric was so soft, gentle and forgiving to touch that I couldn’t help but see an opportunity to appreciate the moment. By creating something as simple as a tee with a material that felt so soft, the possibility of bringing a mindful approach to a man's life began to take shape.
Moving forward, the choice of materials will continue to be an important consideration. They must minimise the impact our choices have on others and our future. This means addressing sustainability, as well as look and feel.
Bamboo meets many of these requirements, but Zenism is always on the lookout for ways to make this process even better.
2) Understanding of purpose
The purpose of an object is paramount to its creation, especially when the overarching goal is to make products that encourage simplicity in people’s lives. We often think that ‘if we have more, then we will be better’, but that only brings distraction from what’s important. Bringing simplicity to life arises by boiling the product down to its core and stripping away all that’s unnecessary. Each time I begin the design process, I ask the question, “how is it used?” Or, “Is this useful?”
The understanding of purpose helps me decide whether the product is going to bring value to a persons life, or whether it’s going to be more clutter and waste for the world. When the product is designed for a purpose it brings us closer to that Rikyu idea that every object has the power to speak poetry, to bring us closer to the moment.
3) Economy and efficiency through simplicity.
When we’re addressing the aspects of an ethical life through design, we have to understand the impact that design has on the individual, the environment and the interdependent cultures of our age. Design and economics have been responsible for our age’s enormous impact on the globe, during a time when neither assumed responsibility for the impact of their waste and excess. By keeping the design process simple, we also maximise our ability to control how much waste we create because we can account for each step of the process. Keeping these products simple doesn’t just bring mindfulness to the user, it brings mindfulness to the label as a whole.
Zenism is a fusion of Japanese aesthetic and philosophy, with Australian ingenuity, ideas and lifestyle.
I’m not the first person to have the idea of a wholistic product created for mindfulness, this is a concept that was introduced to me in Japan. It was first made popular thereby a smart tea masters work, Rikyu, during the 1500’s. His main focus was how to bring mindfulness into our lives through our everyday interactions with objects and habits, like drinking tea. He managed to transform this mundane activity into a ceremony, bringing attention to the fact that every moment is a chance to connect and be present in life.
Rikyu taught us that because objects are with us more than books and abstract concepts they have a fantastic opportunity to remind us of what really matters if we allow them to. In this way, objects can be just as poignant as poetry. When we get dressed, when we eat and play, when we pack for a weekend away, our humble clothes and possessions are there with an opportunity to remind us that our lives are worth living.
Despite the business and over saturation that exists in that island nation, Japan manages to maintain a sense of Rikyu and Zen’s teaching throughout their everyday, mundane life. It seems that everyone, without even realising, is a kind of philosopher. From the designers to the salesmen.
Australia has its own version. We have a history of making do, finding creative ways of overcoming obstacles, and of adapting ideas to suit a more rugged culture, climate and landscape. Our approach to life is one of determination and stoic steadfastness, but we also have a unique ability to see the beauty in the rugged and recognise the hype in fame and fortune. We have an intrinsic knack for making everything and everyone equal. This could be why Australian’s love to experiment with materials, making objects from raw and ordinary stuff like tree logs and upcycled scrap metal. We also used our ingenuity with the wool industry and the breeding of climatized Merino sheep, and recently with the development of the macadamia shell Husque by Australian Marc Harrison. We like to see the underdog overcome adversity, and think those with privilege should come down to an even playing field. Everything and everyone should be equal because there is potential in every moment.
There is something in this Australian perspective that compliments the Japanese appreciation of a more mindful approach, and that’s how Zenism comes to bring mindfulness into a man’s life.
If you have any thoughts on how to bring more attention and awareness of what matters to the lives of others, I’d love to hear your comments. It’s important that these ideas don’t stay static or rigid, that they are contested, tested and built upon throughout the lifetime of the brand. Nothing great ever occurred in isolation. Please submit your thoughts, suggested reading, watching and learning through the contact page, or use the form below.
Take a look
I designed the zenism basics to get rid of distraction - it's about helping others to get the most out of life. That's what the whole brand is about.
See how the mens bamboo can remind you of the simple life, here.