The idea of shelves are pretty standard, right? They lean against a wall, either mounted or on a platform and they’re meant to be sturdy and hold things you’d like to display, whether it be books or artifacts or family photos. Personally I never think about the act of putting them together, wherever I go they just happen to already be set up and I don’t give it a second thought as to how they got there, who put them there or how they assembled them.
I was sitting in my boyfriend’s office (it’s his first job out of college and I went to visit for the first time) and looked around to check the place out and noticed that the only things he had to personalize his new workspace were on these shelves. Going back to this assignment I started to think about how they were set up, the slates of metal they were propped up on, how functional they are to move around if you wanted to adjust the space in between each shelf, how sturdy they were (holding all of his old baseball pictures isn’t a job for a flimsy shelf). As of right now, there are only 4 pictures, a hat, his favorite glove, and 2 file separators but I’m sure there will be more to come.
As I examined them closer, they seem pretty simple to assemble—nothing that looked like Ikea professionals needed to come in and do the trick—but are they aesthetically pleasing? To me, not so much. His office is relatively small, smack dab in the middle of other small offices down a very long hallway of the same room over and over, so I assume that each office has a set of these shelves and the focus when designing these rooms was more on functionality and simplicity as opposed to intricate interior design.
Although, Norman said, “Well-designed objects are easy to interpret and understand. They contain visible clues to their operation.” Simple as that.
As far as enargeia and eudamonia are concerned, it doesn’t necessarily fulfill both of these aspects, but parts of each of them for sure. The shelves are vivid in the way that they convey visible significance through visual depiction, they’re clearly there for a reason and it’s not hard to tell why. They fit the requirements of eudamonia in the way that they enrich the activities of people who live in groups. In a way, they can express a person’s deeply held values by what the shelves themselves hold. They’re useful and functional and, in a way, meaningful.