Useful or Artful?

The AxiDraw from a recent quickies brought up a question that has been rolling around in my engineer/artist brain for a while. It is a stellar example in a long line of projects that are beautiful, mesmerizing to watch, and yet I would never buy.  See this egg bot, dry erase bot, planting bot, etc.  Doesn’t the last one take the fun out of gardening, getting dirty?

Anyway, as someone who is fascinated by beautiful mechanical objects, why would I never buy one?

It comes down to the line between Useful and Artful.

In the case of the AxiDraw there are cheaper and more convenient ways to achieve similar results.

I can use my printer, it is MUCH faster than the bot. MUCH faster. I can go to an office supply store and use their large scale printers.  Sure it’s not free, but they are still less expensive than a $450 drawing bot.  And when I consider how infrequently I need large prints?  Or calligraphy?  FedEx is suddenly affordable and my printer calligraphy font is OK for fancy wedding invitations.  I mean, who would notice the difference?

These objects, as useful as they appear, are in reality more artful than useful.

They solve a problem that doesn’t need solving, using an expensive and elaborate method.  Buying one would be more a sign of how much excess money and time I have, as well as space in my house.  It’s hipster conspicuous consumption, the infomercial of the twenty teens.  ShamWOW!

And yet they keep coming.  The presentation may change but the game doesn’t.



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