20 JANUARY 2022
AESTHETICS AND ECONOMICS OF “THE CASUAL”
times new roman
these are some examples of aesthetic features conveying a casual, “not too involved” tone, underpinned by the economics of social and material relations. this economic structure is a basic one, that of supply and demand. as the quantity of the entity decreases, its value increases, furthered by the conspicuous nature of such intentional decreasing.
short texts indicate a lesser investment in their recipients, as well as a scarcity of time. the quantity and length of texts decrease, therefore, for the receiving party, their value goes up.
slow replies once again indicate a scarcity of time, which is perceived as desirable. here, there is a contradicting logic to the capitalist ideology supporting this notion. a lack of time as a result of productive activities is attractive, going against the condition that an excess of time due to not needing to work is the ultimate goal of the individual in the productive system.
ubiquitous in texting, an all lowercase keyboard is one of the first customisations made to a new phone. the conscious act of overriding the default capitalisation to convey a more laid-back persona through the all lowercase demonstrates the inverted logic to the economy of the casual. this has been utilised in song titles too, as well as in typography for purely aesthetic purposes.
the semiotics of the default wallpaper is less straightforward. while indicating a lack of time to change it, it mostly is an apple user exclusive behaviour. the apple product, carrying its conspicuous value, that of a certain lifestyle and type of personality expressed through the commodity, is carried over to, and also expressed by the wallpaper.
similar to the default wallpaper, the default apple ringtone is widely recognised and further projects a desire to conspicuously consume.
fitting into the product and operating system native economy, the notes app signals a more personal tone. screenshots of text in notes are ubiquitously used by celebrities online, communicating a more direct relationship with fans. it is, after all, the celebrity’s personal note, carrying the aesthetics of a “non-professionally-designed” statement, yet often highly choreographed and copywritten.
coming from an aesthetic position, the ironic use of times new roman in “high-design” environments projects a casual consideration to the appearance of a website. being an html default typeface, present on most computers, the designer relinquishes the vast library of other typefaces, in favour of a default. while driven mostly by aesthetics, the use of times new roman makes sense economically too, being free to use commercially.
the intentional reduction of elements in design constructs an economy of attention fully directed towards elements that are present. production costs too can be channeled in a similar way, increasing the quality of all that is there, by eradicating the costs of all that is deemed unnecessary. the ease and lightness of a minimalist design therefore creates the illusion of non-involvement on part of the designer, which, in reality, is no lesser than for maximalist output.
the apparent irony, as surfaced, is that all these are calculated actions, which, whether or not recognised and carried out intentionally, involve an investment greater than a “casual” one. the economics of the “casual aesthetic” is therefore one of intentional design, displayed conspicuously, in order to communicate certain spectacles, referring to, usually high, economic or social status.