Unhappy Hipsters

The Cult Satirical Design Bloggers Play Guest Editors With the Nowness Archive

Routinely sending up the hyper-styled world of modern design on Unhappy Hipsters, writer Molly Jane Quinn and graphic designer Jenna Talbott applied their knack for deadpan captioning to the NOWNESS archive, imbuing scenes borrowed from stories on Mark Ruffalo, André Saraiva and more with their mock-wistful tone. Pairing images culled from aspirational shelter title Dwell with jokey omniscient narrations, the blog, launched in early 2010 while Quinn and Talbott were working at regional magazine Design New England, now claims nearly 80,000 followers. The pair recently made their print debut with It’s Lonely in the Modern World: The Essential Guide to Form, Function and Ennui from the Creators of Unhappy Hipsters, a tongue-in-cheek design manifesto that touches on everything from the merits of an “antiseptic” aesthetic to customized concrete color palettes. “It has to be uncomfortable, it has to be expensive and it has to alienate those around you, including yourself a little bit,” Quinn laughs, while explaining the unofficial Unhappy Hipsters mantra. Here, the sardonically inclined duo unpick authentic design choices and the Unhappy Hipster profile.

Which celebrity is the Unhappy Hipsters poster child?
Brad Pitt would love to consider himself that way. He’s always blathering on about how he’s this failed, frustrated architect. Zooey Deschanel would be good for that quirkier stuff that Dwell does, a bit vintage-y and collect-y. She’s married to the guy from Death Cab for Cutie and they’d have a good mix of twee French provincial furniture with some mid-century modern—but it would also be like a bungalow home…

What would an Unhappy Hipsters dream shoot look like?
I think we would just go to town at [online design store] Design Within Reach. We would make fun of ourselves making fun of that and grab every cliché that we came across: Eames chairs, stuff like that. And there’d be a dog, either a stuffed dog or a sleeping one.
The people would definitely be in the same room not looking at each other. And if there’s a child, the child is alone, looking forlorn.

What’s the loneliest bit of design you’ve witnessed?
It was a mattress on a concrete floor with a full-length mirror leaned up against the wall. That was the saddest. I just pictured somebody sitting on the floor, basically on the edge of the mattress, looking at themselves in a sad desperate way.
There’s such a fear of being judged by the things you choose and having to justify them. It’s easier to be in a concrete cave because there’s something safe in that level of nothingness when you’re not actively choosing. But it’s actually a cop-out. 

Having imagined the secret lives of unhappy hipsters, what closeted vice would you most like to attribute to them?
I would love if they had a secret guilty pleasure, like Velveeta. Something crappy they wouldn’t want to admit they ate. I love the idea that you have this kitchen that’s presented as if you’re making these amazing gourmet meals, but really you’re alone in a chair eating frozen TV dinners and reading US Weekly. Like my life.

To see more NOWNESS images that have been given the Unhappy Hipster treatment, and for the chance to add your own captions, visit our Facebook page here.

It’s Lonely in the Modern World: The Essential Guide to Form, Function and Ennui from the Creators of Unhappy Hipsters is out now from Chronicle Books. 

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