Being no stranger to a packet of chocolate hobnobs, I didn’t expect the fear when I first ordered a chocolate brownie at The Manna House. No larger than normal, their brownies somehow contain a disproportionate amount of the good stuff, sending the recipient on a cocoa-fuelled big dipper. There’s no better way to start the day than by nearly ending it with your blood sugar into the stratosphere.
But if I’m participating in cocoa based adrenaline sports my immediate concerns are nothing to do with design. I’m much too busy wondering if my heart rate will recover and my hands stop shaking before I touch heavy machinery. I’m not thinking about design, and neither are the people who pause on their way to the bus stop, admiring the confections in the window. They aren’t thinking about design when they look into the chiller cabinet, and decide whether to go for a mexican wrap over the BLT, and the couple who are sitting reading the papers near the door couldn’t care less about shadow gaps or mitred corners. As I sit there, everyone around me is immersed in the stuff of life – food, drink, conversation, reading, thought.
Even the owner of the Manna House, Drew, isn’t thinking about design. He’s mostly thinking about what to put into his new window display next, and that his turnover has risen substantially since he was able to display the beauty of what he makes, and since three more covers were created near the door. When With Kerlaff made three elements of new furniture for the bakery, I fretted about whether the back of the Cake Sofa that we made for the window has a consistent language with the other elements. But looking at people enjoying the food, the furniture has been bang on target: in second place, exactly where it should be.
I’m not pretending that design is not important, because it is, enormously. Good design can enrich our lives, and there is great skill and hard graft involved in making it work so well that people don’t even see it. But in championing good design, we should never confuse the design itself with those things it should be enriching, supporting. We shouldn’t confuse design with the sensation of eating chocolate, because there is no contest.