The view from inside a hula hoop

Found myself so mesmerized by this new ad for Cos this morning, I had to watch it twice. You may know Cos as H&M’s more sophisticated sister brand, but it’s wonderful to see them break the serious vibe of the clothes with such an exuberant, playful ad.

The ad was made by Lernert and Sander, the team that made the well-loved Sound of Cos commercial, which showed attempts to recreate the sonic experience of Cos clothes using a whimsical collection of objects: using a plunger to make the sounds of buttons being done up, or umbrellas to emphasize the popping of a collar. This ad builds on that one, showing how aesthetics of joy don’t have to be candy-colored and loud, too much of which can feel childish. A limited palette, paired with the joyous orbiting movement of the hoop, brings whimsy without undercutting the sense of elegance. Add to that the contrast between the simple, almost severe lines of the clothes and the fact that it’s basically impossible to look serious when you’re swiveling your hips in a hula hoop, and there is that wonderful sense of expectations disrupted that so often accompanies joy.

But the master stroke is of course the decision to embed a GoPro camera inside the hoop itself, to capture the giddy, almost ecstatic feeling of that wobbling gyration. It makes me think of the constant dance between art and technology. Technology brings us wonders, like a camera small enough that it can fit inside a hula hoop. But it’s art that situates that technology in contexts where it can be wonderful. Art’s curiosity, and lack of inhibition, allows it to ask the absurd questions: What would we see if we put a camera in a hula hoop? Technology is rarely joyous on its own. But when we apply it in the direction of questions, especially the naive kinds of questions a child might ask, we create a space for tech to truly delight.

Hey, Guess What?

The Aesthetics of Joy is now a book! Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness is now available.

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