Paper Always Wins

The other day I was in a disagreement with a beautiful woman. Being a smart man, I knew there was no way to win. So I offered up a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to settle it once and for all. I picked paper.

Paper is perhaps the smartest material in the world. I’ll give you some examples. All of the diplomas granted by Harvard University are printed on paper. If you’re too smart for Harvard and drop out like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, you can count billions of dollars in paper money. All of the richest people in the world are printed on paper in Forbes magazine. If you buy a house, you sign your name a hundred times on paper. If you’re American, these papers are shuffled, reorganized, and re-bundled by Goldman Sachs, and then sold to unsuspecting investors around the world. And yes, they weren’t worth the paper they were written on. On a more positive note, if you marry the love of your life, there is probably a paper involved in that deal as well.

From ancient Chinese ideas to today’s Euro, paper has affected all of us. Perhaps the most compelling feature of paper is how it records our thoughts and dreams. Writing a letter on paper is much more romantic than sending a text message or updating your Facebook profile. Beneath the characters on so-called smart phones are the dumb and dumber digits of zero and one.

The Eiffel Tower began on paper. The present buildings of Frank Gehry were either drawn on paper or modeled on the crumpled paper he discarded. It’s been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. Well how mighty is that pen without the paper to write on? How can any of us change the world without paper?

In a digital world that’s become as cold as the metal and glass that form it, there is something elegant and charming about our old analog friend – paper. Oh, in case you were wondering… in the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, the paper always wins. Paper is a smart and winning material for emotional design and here’s why.

by Benjamin J. Kwitek, PhD

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