Let’s take things S L O W…

Take things slow…The “Slow” Movement

I am just about to start a project with L’Ecole de Design Nantes Atlantique within a context of Slow Design, so I have been researching the “Slow” movement in all of its forms…

What does that mean exactly?

Well as the name implies, it means generally to slow down processes: people, products, things (such as eating, moving around spaces), to enable us to begin to really understand the source of things; the manufacturing processes, the people who invent and produce them, how they are made, to have new user-experiences, to enjoy, relate to, understand in a new way, a new context, of taking things “slow!”

Perfect, one might think for our increasingly fast pace of life… but is it really achievable? Well, the Italians started it with Slow Food. Taking time to enjoy food. Waiting for food to be grown at the proper time – seasonal food, in season. A more sustainable, educative approach to growing; preparing, tasting (sensory pleasure), eating and enjoying.

According to the founder of Slow Food, Carlo Petrini  “Slow food unites the pleasure of food with responsibility, sustainability and harmony with nature.”

The slow food movement has focused on making connections between the way a morsel is grown, and how it tastes, helping us to reflect on how our consumer choices relate to human and eco impacts through transparency about origins. This has led to strategies such as Food Traceability and Food passports – so that we can see clearly where our food is coming from and how it is produced, transported etc. Here’s the web-site for Slow Food to find out more.

Food traceability using bar-code technology

Then we have “Slow Fashion”

Slow fashion means clothing and accessories that start with thoughtfully chosen beginnings, are constructed by well-paid individuals, and are meant to remain wearable for years to come.

The Classic Black Dress is reinvented… An early example from 2004  is knitwear company Makepiece formed by Beate Kubitz former advocate for Amnesty International and Nicola Sherlock designer and community agriculture expert.

The flock of sheep used to make Makepiece’s clothing.

By rearing their own sheep, and keeping all production in the UK, they are able to vouch for environmental, ethical, and animal well-being standards. Their two yearly collections offer trans-seasonal beauty.

Another early example is Entermodal’s Cradle to Cradle-minded luxury leather bags. Source: http://www.treehugger.com

So how has this movement developed since 2004? The Ecologist reports that “Fast fashion isn’t really about speed, but greed: selling more, making more money. Time is just one factor of production, along with labour, capital and natural resources that get juggled and squeezed in the pursuit of maximum profits. But fast is not free. Short lead times and cheap clothes are only made possible by exploitation of labour and natural resources.”

We all know of global brands who exploit the poor so that we can benefit from (sometimes) cheaper, quicker production processes. exploitation of factory works, cotton pickers and growers, jean dyers etc… We know that Zara’s strategy is to be quick-to-market with the latest fashions… but do we really want or need to be fast or SLOW?

So, back to slow design…

Let’s start the revolution in the present continuous.

If we take a look at some of SlowLab’s work in New York, they are currently working on “Place-ness” strange expression? When and how can a place be labelled “slow?” to encourage new ways of ‘knowing’ the physical, social and cultural phenomena of urban contexts.

Let’s take this theme, what could you imagine?

Fast food restaurants become slow, so that we can really enjoy the food and surroundings much more?

Supermarkets add contemplative aspects to the cash-point area so that we enjoy the wait?

Exhibitions at the Grand Palais slow down even more so that we spend all day queuing – but we enjoy the exterior as much as the interior?

No, it goes deeper than that: here’s a quick definitive guide to slow design principles:

1. Reveal:  Slow design reveals spaces and experiences in everyday life that are often missed or forgotten, including the materials and processes that can easily be overlooked in an artifact’s existence or creation.
2. Expand: Slow design considers the real and potential “expressions” of artifacts and environments beyond their perceived functionality, physical attributes and lifespans.
3. Reflect: Slowly-designed artifacts and environments induce contemplation and ‘reflective consumption.’
4. Engage: Slow design processes are “open source” and collaborative, relying on sharing, co-operation and transparency of information so that designs may continue to evolve into the future.
5. Participate: Slow design encourages users to become active participants in the design process, embracing ideas of conviviality and exchange to foster social accountability and enhance communities.
6. Evolve: Slow design recognizes that richer experiences can emerge from the dynamic maturation of artifacts and environments over time. Looking beyond the needs and circumstances of the present day, slow design processes and outcomes become agents of both preservation and transformation.
Source: http://www.slowlab.net

Well, who started this notion of Slow Design?

Slow design chair “Cube”

Slow Design was set up by Alastair Fuad-Luke in 2004 to stimulate debate around the concept of ‘slow design’. It’s premise is that  we can perceive ‘design’ and ‘slowness’ as a positive influence towards more sustainable ways of living.

Alastair Fuad-Luke also set down some interesting principles around this theme:

• design to slow human, economic and resource use metabolisms
• repositioning the focus of design on individual, sociocultural and environmental well-being
• design to celebrate slowness, diversity and pluralism
• design encouraging a long view
• design dealing with the ‘continuous present’ (a term coined in the 1950s by Bruce Goff, the American architect who noted that history is past and the
future hasn’t arrived but that the ‘continuous present’ is always with us)
• ‘design as a counterbalance to the ‘fastness’ (speed) of the current (industrial and consumer) design paradigm’
So, slow Design, slow Fashion, Slow anything, seems to make real sense to me.

I think we now need Slow Communication, slow Social Media… and yes, it’s starting… with Avenoo for example…

Avenoo’s slogan is “garden of global consciousness”. It describes itself as “a haven of mindful interaction where we honor the web of life and nourish our relationships… Here you can breathe and just be present.”

It is also promoting on its web-site the Slow Living Conference taking place in June this year in New England, USA.

We also have http://socialmediatoday.com/ Here Rick Liebling, sets out his principles for Slow Social Media:

1. Slow Media are a contribution to sustainability. Sustainability relates to the raw materials, processes and working conditions, which are the basis for media production.
2. Slow media promote Monotasking. Slow Media cannot be consumed casually, but provoke the full concentration of their users.
3. Slow Media aim at perfection. The continuous improvement of reliable user interfaces that are robust, accessible and perfectly tailored to the media usage habits of the people.
4. Slow Media make quality palpable. Slow Media measure themselves in production, appearance and content against high standards of quality and stand out from their fast-paced and short-lived counterparts.
5. Slow Media advance Prosumers, i.e. people who actively define what and how they want to consume and produce.
6. Slow Media are discursive and dialogic. In Slow Media, listening is as important as speaking. Hence ‘Slow’ means to be mindful and approachable and to be able to regard and to question one’s own position from a different angle.
7. Slow Media are Social Media. Vibrant communities or tribes constitute around Slow Media. This, for instance, may be a living author exchanging thoughts with his readers or a community interpreting a late musician’s work.
8. Slow Media respect their users. Slow Media approach their users in a self-conscious and amicable way and have a good idea about the complexity or irony their users can handle. Slow Media neither look down on their users nor approach them in a submissive way.
9. Slow Media are distributed via recommendations not advertising: the success of Slow Media is not based on an overwhelming advertising pressure on all channels but on recommendation from friends, colleagues or family. A book given as a present five times to best friends is a good example.
10. Slow Media are timeless: Slow Media are long-lived and appear fresh even after years or decades. They do not lose their quality over time but at best get some patina that can even enhance their value.
11. Slow Media are auratic: Slow Media emanate a special aura. They generate a feeling that the particular medium belongs to just that moment of the user’s life. Despite the fact that they are produced industrially or are partially based on industrial means of production, they are suggestive of being unique and point beyond themselves.
12. Slow Media are progressive not reactionary: Slow Media rely on their technological achievements and the network society’s way of life. Slow Media are not a contradiction to the speed and simultaneousness of Twitter, Blogs or Social Networks but are an attitude and a way of making use of them.
13. Slow Media focus on quality both in production and in reception of media content: Craftsmanship in cultural studies such as source criticism, classification and evaluation of sources of information are gaining importance with the increasing availability of information.
14. Slow Media ask for confidence and take their time to be credible. Behind Slow Media are real people. And you can feel that.

So, we need to ask ourselves do we really need to be fast? Are we really enjoying “Fast living?” What is it really providing us with in terms of enrichment. Are we making ‘real’ connections on-line? What do our ‘friends’ really mean to us? How can we enjoy being longer at doing something… we seem to have forgotten how to be SLOW.

Yes, we only live once and yes we can do much more if we are fast? But are we really taking the time to enjoy what we are doing when we are doing it? And are we doing it well? Good enough? With as much thought when we are fast?

I think the SLOW movement is really interesting in all its guises… what do you think?


  1. Excellent post Sue! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and research. I think it’s very interesting and will be ‘slowly’ soaking up the concept behind the movement.

  2. Thanks Rand, yes it’s interesting to look into this, when we are all running around like headless chickens 😉 I am really interested in this subject, hope you enjoy finding out more about it too!
    Bon weekend!

  3. Good luck for your project at L’Ecole de Design Nantes Atlantique!
    Just to correct a missunderstanding:
    As Mr. Rick Liebling says, whom you quote above, the Slow Media Manifesto was written by Blumtritt/David/Köhler, not by himself.
    S. David

  4. What a fascinating concept Sue! To have some ‘slow’ in an increasingly fast world is refreshing. It allows for quality rather than ‘It’ll do..’
    I noticed this week that Drive Slow has been adopted to save fuel, but can’t for the life of me recall whether that was Italy or Spain.

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