Image by Tiffany Threadgould One of my favorite places to find unique upcycled projects is Unconsumption, a Tumblr blog run by a small volunteer team that’s dedicated to creative re-use. They’ve recently embarked on a very interesting effort to build an Unconsumption brand – they’ve released their logo under Creative Commons license, and are asking crafters and makers to apply that logo to stuff they already own. All these products-that-aren’t-really-products are being gathered as The Uncollection. I had a chance to contribute my own project to The Uncollection recently, and asked Rob Walker, founder of Unconsumption, contributor to The New York Times Magazine and the author of Buying In: The Secret Dialog Between What We Buy and Who We Are, to tell us more about this effort. If you’d like to join in the fun, read on!
First, Rob, will you give us a little background on Unconsumption?
“Unconsumption” is a word I made up in 2006, and later used in a column about Freecycle, in which I mused: “It’s worth pondering whether getting rid of stuff can ever feel as good as getting it.” Based on various reactions to the term, it started to seem like an interesting catch-all to refer to many forms of creative reuse and mindful consumer behavior, leading to the collaborative Tumblr blog. There are several contributors, and basically we try to highlight entertaining, inspirational, or useful examples of what we think of as unconsumption.
Image by Tiffany Threadgould
What was the genesis of The Uncollection project?
Branding has been one of my main subjects as a journalist, and for a few years I’ve pondered if there’s a way to borrow some of the tools of brand-making to advance an idea, but without actually creating products. In the context of the Unconsumption project, it seems particularly silly for us to start, I don’t know, peddling T-shirts or tote bags. So this idea emerged of having a logo, and making it available for people to use it on things they already own. Ideally, the logo then becomes both a means of breathing new life into an old thing, and a means of spreading the Unconsumption idea (or “brand”).
Clifton Burt designed the logo, and Molly Block came up with the term for an object on which the logo is now placed – “The Uncollection,” the first-ever line of goods consisting entirely of stuff people already owned! I like to say that Unconsumption is thus the ultimate “lifestyle” brand: We’re not selling anything, it’s all lifestyle, no products.
Anyway once the logo (sometimes referred to as Mr. Cart, though it could be Ms. Cart) was finished, we started inviting some creative friends, artists and crafters we admire, to put him/her/it to use. We’re sharing the results over the course of the summer, and hopefully beyond.
Image by Tiffany Threadgould
How is Mr. (or Ms.) Cart different than any other logo – like, say, the Nike swoosh?
Apart from the obvious lack of profit motive, or a budget (Unconsumption is a volunteer effort), I think the other interesting distinction from a traditional logo is that we’re really turning over control. In fact this particular logo really succeeds only by way of other people making use of it. We also don’t have any rules about how the logo is executed – pick your own colors, hand-draw it, whatever. I’m not sure how Nike would feel about people putting DIY versions of its swoosh onto stuff Nike didn’t make – but we want Mr. Cart on stuff we didn’t make. (Actually there are some caveats to that – we of course don’t want people using Mr. Cart or the Unconsumption brand for commercial purposes; our Creative Commons license spells all that out.)
That said, I hope that our logo does the traditional work (or reaches the traditional goal) of branding, which is adding some kind of value to a thing.
Is this project open only to crafters you invite, or can anyone add to the collection?
Oh it’s definitely open to everybody! We encourage people to post pictures of their Uncollection creations to our Facebook page, we’re hoping to highlight the best of what we see as time goes on. We hope the “artist series” inspires people, but this experiment is definitely the opposite of exclusive.
Are there any particular items you’re hoping to see added to The Uncollection as the project progresses? Hm. A themed-out donk would be pretty sweet. Know anybody with a ’76 Impala?