Can positive associations with the past make anything seem beautiful?

Meaning ‘artist’ or ‘art car’. Illustration by the author.

The short answer is yes (as I quickly learned from those that read a draft of this story 🙄) But since I’m not as well-read in these matters, I had to find my own way to it. My way was fun-ner.

It all began with an itch to recreate one of my favorite t-shirts. It used to be made by Tantra, and I think I was wearing it the day I landed in New York in 2004. The shirt was pun-ny. If you speak Hindi, you’ll get it. But that bit’s not important.

What is important, and got me thinking…

After a pair of companion pieces about mundane objects we found fascinating, Ritwik Dey and I decided to start a series. We call it “Ugly Beautiful” — much like the show, we aim to celebrate the everyday objects we often take for granted.

A few weeks ago, after months of isolation, I met some friends for a socially distant happy hour in the park. …

Inspired by “The functional beauty of ugly things”

Recently, my friend and Design Director at Medium, Ritwik Dey, wrote a memorable post about the functional beauty of ugly things. In it, he reflects on a portable hand shower he purchased from Home Depot, an object that fulfills its purpose with no frills. It isn’t aesthetically pleasing, nor does it have smart affordances to install or use. He says -

Maybe there is a place for these functional-but-ugly things in the world. The pragmatist in me certainly thinks so; the designer in me is uncomfortable.

I’ve been there. I’m often trying to find the more elegant looking, cleverly designed…

Eyesores that bring joy through what they enable

The new shower hose attachment thingy I purchased at Home Depot over the weekend is one of these. It is undeniably ugly—made of cheap-looking, mismatched bits of plastic, it has to be forced over your shower faucet and restrained with a punitive metal tie to provide a makeshift handheld showerhead. My internal groan is almost audible.

DANCO Versa 1-Spray Portable Hand Shower

But this new appendage turns showers for my 4 year-old into gleeful play instead of work for me. Not to mention saving me the trouble of tearing down a wall to install the real thing. The kid is done in about 10 minutes, beaming…

Ugly Beautiful

Beauty is more than meets the eye

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