Anecdote to the Decline of the Work Ethic

Some time ago, I worked on a fair trade for an italian company. One of the leaders of the company told me with proud that he designed the logo and all the brochures by himself. It was really bad designed. He had also taken the pictures by himself (and they too looked very unprofessional). And there was a movie, also taken by himself, which was wiggly and pixelated. But the company was successful in their small niche, so I didn’t say anything. One day, a collaborator of the company from Germany passed by. I told him that I was studying Design and he became over-excited. He started to tell the italians how they should change their cooperate design in order to get a “professional” and “competitive” appearance and that I could help them to achieve this. At this point, I understood why I didn’t say anything before.
There exists a great story by Heinrich Böll (a german author), Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral. This is a small summary of the story (taken from

A tourist looks on a most idyllic picture: a fisherman dozing in the sun in his rowing boat that he has pulled out of the waves which come rolling up the sandy beach. The tourist’s camera clicks and the fisherman wakes. The tourist asks: “The weather is great and there’s plenty of fish, so why are you lying around instead of going out and catching more?” The fisherman replies: “Because I caught enough this morning.” “But just imagine,” the tourist says, “you could go out there three or four times a day and bring home three or four times as much fish! And then you know what could happen?” The fisherman shakes his head. “After a year you could buy yourself a motorboat,” says the tourist. “After two years you could buy a second one, and after three years you could have a cutter or two. And just think! One day you might be able to build a freezing plant or a smoke house. You might eventually even get your own helicopter for tracing shoals of fish and guiding your fleet of cutters, or you could buy your own trucks to ship your fish to the capital, and then . . .” “And then?” asks the fisherman. “And then”, the tourist continues triumphantly, “you’d could spend time sitting at the beachside, dozing in the sun and looking at the beautiful ocean!” The fisherman looks at the tourist: “But that is exactly what I was doing before you came along!”

This story makes me think about if it’s really necessary that everything becomes “designed”, “stylish” or “beautiful”. The italian company did good work in a niche and that’s why they sold their products – and also because they rather eat some nice food and drink good wine with their clients  instead of meeting in a white room with a big flat screen and some stylish designed furniture… I like nice and beautiful things, but somehow I love life and diversity much more!


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