Many of you probably already know this, but I primarily design furniture. More specifically, furniture to be used in the workplace. I find it rewarding to be a part of designing useful products that in turn help amazing companies accomplish their mission. For years I only designed custom furniture (custom – conceptualizing, designing, engineering, and producing all in a very short timeframe). Everything from tables to workstation systems.

In that era, when opportunities came about there were two camps: The standard furniture camp, and the custom furniture camp. Standard referred to pre-developed product offerings. The product had already been tested, produced, and was on display. It also meant materials, color choices, and sizes were limited. The custom camp was the polar opposite. The product didn’t exist yet, but if you could dream it, we could make it.

This is where we sometimes hit a snag, and for the longest time I could not put my finger on why. We had the best solution. We had the best design (I may be bias). We had seemingly unlimited choices for materials and finishes. Why not go custom!?

There is something called “choice overload”, or “The Paradox of Choice”. In a nutshell, a study published in 2015 by Northwestern University found at first people want as many options as possible, but when faced with making a decision, they become stuck. (Link to article below).

6 years ago, after being presented with the opportunity to start something new with like-minded individuals, I thought about this in the context of what I do. Perhaps more choices are desired, but a blank canvas is too much. The interior designers I typically work with are often already busy enough designing the space. If all I can offer them is a custom engagement which requires starting with a blank slate, I am now asking them to make time consuming informed choices about the furniture as well.

There had to be a better way. My work with furniture company Pair, encompasses this approach perfectly. A curated collection of offerings that lay the foundation, while still offering a level of tailor-ability to each of these platforms. Combining the best of both worlds of standard and custom. I often explain this concept as a dial. Pair makes the dial, and you (the architect/designer/client) turn it turn the dial to the correct position for your project.

The freedom of choice is an amazing gift to have, but perhaps in certain circumstances, removing the weight of too many options can help inform the right decisions instead of being overwhelmed by them. I believe this approach can also help define your brand and set it apart by taking a stance. Not enough choice can stifle creativity. Being all things to all people is a good way to get lost in the shuffle.

These thoughts expressed are solely mine, and I share them with the purpose of provoking thought and encouraging discourse. I hope you gained something from this writing. If you are interested in discussing this topic with me, I would love to talk with you.

Link to research article – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265170803_Choice_Overload_A_Conceptual_Review_and_Meta-Analysis


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