ASU graphics-design professor Andy Weed despises grocery stores. He hates the way product labels jump at him and compete for his attention.
Weed promptly removes all labels from his canned food when he returns home. He prefers to write on the cans himself with a permanent marker. On his kitchen shelf, you will find plain tin cans with handwritten labels such as “black beans” and “meatballs.”
The rest of Weed’s home is pretty much like his pantry: bare essentials only. The rule is, if it’s not necessary, then it should be out of sight. But he calls it simplicity, not minimalism.
“I think of small things when I think of minimal. Like postage stamps. I’m fascinated with simple. Everything in life is complex,” he explains.
And simplicity is key for Weed, because it brings him a sense of peace.
He carries the concept to extremes, though. Entering his home through the front door, you get the sense that Weed hasn’t quite finished moving in yet.
The first thing you notice is that the living room is completely monochromatic. The hardwood floors almost match the color of the window frames and the plywood furniture. The living-room furniture consists only of a dining table with chairs, a single recliner chair and a coffee table. What’s most striking is there are no pictures on the walls, which are white and bare.
“I don’t like hanging work any more than I like hanging people. It brings too much attention to it,” he explains, adding that art cannot truly live if you put it on a pedestal.
Weed obviously thinks a lot. During our chat, he challenges some ideas that most of us take for granted. For instance, he can’t stand human-centered design, also known as ergonomics.
“Something that’s sad for me, is the way a lot of design is today. Like, if you pick up a knife, the handle is commanding you to hold it a certain way. Because it’s got this grip. But then the question is, whose hand is it for? Is it for your hand? Is it for my hand? I mean, they’re totally different.”
When you compare a Western knife to a Japanese cooking knife, he points out, the latter typically has a plain cylindrical handle.
And that is preferable, according to Weed, “because it opens the imagination. Then all of a sudden, you’re not being ordered to hold it a certain way. For instance, if you’re cooking fish, like a sushi chef, you maybe need to hold it like so, or maybe you need to hold it so … or put it in your teeth … This activates the imagination to hold the knife in infinite ways.”
Weed finds this particularly important when it comes to designing furniture. In fact, it was the Japanese knives that inspired him to create a line of furniture that he plans on producing on a larger scale someday. None of the pieces of furniture, which can be seen in his Instagram grid @weedfurniture, are given names, such as “bed,” “chair,” or “end table.” Instead, each one is simply numbered.
“I numbered the furniture, because along with being a chair, it could be an end table, it could be a book rack … and it goes on and on. Whatever you can imagine that you want to make with it.” Weed demonstrates this as he turns the chair in different positions.
Born in Manhattan, Weed moved to Arizona at the age of 5. He studied graphic design at Arizona State University before interning at a design studio in the Netherlands. He later furthered his studies in Switzerland before returning to the U.S.
Weed purchased his home in 2001 and has been remodeling it ever since. He learned from a neighbor that the house was originally built in the 1930s by two women who ran a theater for music recitals and elocution there.
Weed shares his home with girlfriend Erin Dean and their two dogs and two cats. He says he rides a bicycle from his downtown Tempe home to work each day, because he enjoys the process of it.
“I enjoy getting on a bike, riding down these little streets, maybe having contact with people, it’s civilized. Yeah, a car would be more efficient, but there’s no pleasure in it. And in the end, if you make your life efficient, it’s a form of suicide.” After all, he points out, “efficiency is just getting things out of the way faster.”
Weed is a firm believer that what makes a person’s work great are their careful actions. That is why he believes the verb “use” should be abolished from the English language.
“I find the word ‘use’ to be horrific. It’s this thoughtless, careless action. If somebody uses you, it’s not a good feeling. For example, I’m going to use this pencil to draw. Why not: ‘I’m going to draw with this pencil?’ Why do we even need the word ‘use’?”