The Holstee Manifesto, or; If you have to tell me how cool you are, you aren’t cool

Have you seen “The Holstee Manifesto”?


Holstee is a company – oh, sorry, I mean a group of “cyclists, illustrators, surfers, builders, yogis, pizza-lovers, climbers, and creators” – who sell $36 posters (plus $10.54 shipping) and $4 dollar a pop inspirational/aspirational note cards (six to a pack, $10.54 shipping).

So if you need, say, a big green number eight for your wall, and you have $50 in your budget for big green numbers, they can hook you up.

Some might look at the big numbers and say that whoever dreamed up such a thing has done enough for the world. That anyone who has accomplished such a wonderful thing could justifiably rest on their laurels forevermore. But Holstee are creators, yo (as they will tell you over and over and over), so they didn’t stop there.

They have also perfectly encapsulated the misguided selfishness and cluelessness of a very large group of young people into a neat, ready-to-frame package. They call the package The Holstee Manifesto, and they sell it without even a hint of the irony that so many mistake for sophistication these days.

The “manifesto” is unintentionally entertaining, more than a little desperate and pathetic, and very 21st century douchebag. I say “douchebag” because that’s what we used to call them. Now they’re called “hipsters,” among other things, but a rose is a rose is a rose, as Gandhi said (according to Facebook).

Here it is. Get ready, it’s going to change your life!


Allow me to summarize:

Only do things you like to do.
Quit your job.

It’s like a compact narcissism-by-the-numbers handbook.

I should probably make a distinction here and point out that I’m not taking issue with the industrial design that’s been going on around us for decades. In fact I have always been a fan of well designed, quality products. I seek out simple, classic, well made things that I plan to keep for a long time. We used to call those “good things.” We used them for their intended purposes and appreciated them, but stopped short of worshiping them as totems.

I should also say that Holstee aren’t the only ones cynically pushing the “you are the center of the known universe” agenda onto a willing audience of self-obsessed goobers. They probably aren’t even the worst offenders. But they have certainly hit a nerve in their target audience with the “manifesto,” and consequently it’s propagated across the web like an unstoppable, rectangular Kudzu vine.

You see, there is a cult of DESIGN out there. They are young, relatively well off (for their age group anyway), and so obnoxiously pleased with themselves that you want to kick their asses just on principle. They buy $150 hardwood-encased chargers for their iPhones, bluetooth-enabled ice cube trays and $400 “upcycled” bags made out of old two liter soda bottles because they are “great design.”

Depending on where you live, you may find them riding around your city on expensive bikes and sporting oversize, ugly eyeglasses, full beards and faux vintage dresses (not usually a beard and a dress on the same person, of course, but maybe, sometimes, because that would be so ironic). In another city they may be wearing skinny Mad Men suits and drinking $24 cocktails at a bar in a basement or on top of the tallest building in town. The costumes may be different, but they can all say things like, “if you don’t like your job, quit,” with a straight face because they live with their parents, and hey, another design (or barista) job is like, so easy to get.

They worship something they understand as creativity. But they worship a false god, because none of them are creative. They are a sticky human tsunami of followers. Endless pastures of identical sheep churning out mountains of useless, expensive, trendy shit that will fill closets, storage units and landfills for decades to come.

They fetishize DESIGN the same way they have fetishized letterpress printing, cassette tapes, mustaches and virtually everything else they touch. They “create” the same things over and over, none of it new. They have yet to come up with a new form of music, art, writing, film or even television (which they only watch on their phones, while Tweeting about the latest Pantone swatch books). Everything is a variation of something else. Like a mirror facing another mirror.

They are impotent and disposable, yet they believe that they are saving the world. With DESIGN. If you think I’m kidding or exaggerating, just ask one of them. They’ll be happy to tell you over a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon (another fetish item they didn’t create).

The inspirational/aspirational aspect that is on display at places like Holstee permeates the work of these young designers. They love designing things that talk about DESIGN. Clumsily worded calls to be creative and follow your passion. Duck calls on the shore of a polluted lake.

They don’t realize that there is a fundamental, universal truth about all truly creative people, and that is they are driven to create. It isn’t something they do, it is who they are. They don’t need inspiration and encouragement propped up in front of them on a $4 note card. That fact escapes most of the current crop of DESIGN cultists because they never met a truly creative person. You don’t typically run into them at the DESIGN schools that are frantically churning out DESIGN graduates by the busload.

f1Not so long ago, families that wanted a better life for their children encouraged them to study to become doctors and lawyers. Well paying, well respected (okay, doctors anyway) jobs. That kind of aspiration is understandable considering the kinds of work most people had to do just to survive.

But it was also short sighted, because ultimately those aspirations resulted in what we have today; thousands of newly minted lawyers every year who can’t even find unpaid intern work. Because no one stopped to think, hey, maybe we don’t need two lawyers for ever person in America.

This new generation of design-obsessed world-savers are on the very same path. The only difference is they’ll be obsolete much more quickly than the surplus doctors and lawyers. And since they’ve trained themselves to believe that their passions and creativity and ugly self-interest are all that matter, they are going to be ill equipped to do anything else. Anything that matters.

At this particular moment in history they are thriving in a self-perpetuating ecosystem. They hire each other for DESIGN jobs where they manufacture expensive, useless trinkets to sell to each other. But when the design jobs start to go away (and it’s not too early to begin that countdown) who will the remaining designers sell to?

Their expensive, kooky, inspirational trinkets are going to seem callow and unnecessary, which in reality, they always were. They will have spent their careers following their passions and not learning how to make anything people really need. They are going to be fucked, as we used to say. And it’s going to be difficult to work up a tear for them.

Hip hip hoorayThey remind me of the hippies of the late 60s. The hippies believed that if everyone just  got high, fucked each other and listened to music all day, the world would change for the better. We would live in a shanrgri-la of peace and grooviness. The notion that someone, or some group of people, needed to maybe not be high and actually work somewhere in order to keep it all going didn’t occur to them. I guess they thought that grooviness alone would keep the buses running and the sewers flowing.

The cult of design are the hippies of the 21st century because DESIGN in and of itself is not useful to anyone. It doesn’t keep the sewers flowing, if ya dig. They are living in an unsustainable bubble of self-satisfaction and the only thing that makes them different from the hippies is their insatiable consumption of objects. Differences aside, that self-satisfaction and tunnel vision can only end one way. Ask the hippies.

How many designers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? No one knows, because when you ask them to change a lightbulb, all they can do is create a poster about the evolution of lightbulb design.

Which would be funny if it wasn’t true.

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