What’s new?

In an age where newness, obsolescence and the need for innovation keeps us wanting more; what is it that makes change a good thing?

Words: Matt Nation

Our culture is obsessed with new things; we’re always being told that the newer something is the better it is. So much so, that companies working in all manner of industries, from electronics to fashion build obsolescence into their products to ensure that consumers always have the option of upgrading to the latest version of whatever they’re selling.

So what is it about the idea of newness that appeals so much to us? One obvious answer is that it’s not so much our choice as consumers, as the relentless push for sales by businesses. But perhaps this tactic plays into a natural desire that we all have for development and innovation. As a designer, my motivation for creating new things is to solve a problem, or to improve an existing solution.

This need for evolution is about never settling for average, and it’s what keeps people creating. Newness needs to be cultivated and driven daily, usually by a person or team – it rarely just happens by itself. We need to dedicate time and resources to creating newness, so there is some risk to this pursuit, but if we’re not prepared to throw all we’ve got into improving our product, service, and community, we’ll never see it evolve the way we want it to. Companies, artists and charities that stick to the same old routine year in year out tend to stagnate or decline compared with those who are always challenging themselves to innovate, mix things up and bring something new to the table. It’s the absence of complacency that pushes us to seek newness in the hope that we can in some way improve our lives and those of others.

So maybe that’s why we get excited about the latest new-improved, updated, remodelled thingamajig.  Even when on the surface it may not appear too different to what it’s replacing – because it reminds us that the people behind it are always trying to improve what they offer, and they want us to have the best possible experience when engaging with them. Perhaps a charity adopts some new technology to help you make donations more easily, or a brewer adjusts their recipe ever so slightly to get a crisper taste to their beer. Whatever it may be, there are people all over the world obsessed with fine tuning their contribution to our daily lives.

I think it’s because of people like this that we are seeing so many exciting new things happening in Birmingham at the moment. There’s a real sense that the city is forging a new identity for itself, and that the change is being driven by hundreds of individuals and independent businesses who are taking matters into their own hands, looking for ways to improve what’s already here and filling gaps where there is room for something totally new. From Digbeth First Fridays and LoveBrum to 112 Space, Brummies are changing the way we live in the city, challenging us to try new things and question what we think we know.

So why not try something new this week? Step out of your comfort zone, go somewhere different for after-work drinks or search outside the Bullring for a unique birthday present (we have some great ideas at PROVIDE). Life gets exciting when you stop holding on to what you’ve already got and start looking for something new. As the slogan on one of our T-shirts says; Monotony is poison!

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