Why Everything Looks the Same

Ryan Duffy on 2022-10-22

How economic globalization, generational transition, and technology converge to flatten the consumer experience

Do you ever get the feeling that everything around you looks the same?

Across every consumer category, variety and originality have given way to monotony and conformity.

A triple threat of economic globalization, generational transition, and new technology has flattened the aesthetics of our digital and physical lives.

What are the origins of these regressive trends? Why do they matter? And what can founders, marketers, and creators do to stand out amid a sea of sameness?

The “Airbnb-ification” of interior aesthetics

In his 2016 story for The Verge titled “Welcome to Airspace: How Silicon Valley helps spread the same sterile aesthetic across the world,” Kyle Chayka revealed the banal consequences of Airbnb’s rapid rise. Playing on the company’s name, he called the phenomenon AirSpace:

“It’s the realm of coffee shops, bars, startup offices, and co-live/work spaces that share the same hallmarks everywhere you go: a profusion of symbols of comfort and quality, at least to a certain connoisseurial mindset. Minimalist furniture. Craft beer and avocado toast. Reclaimed wood. Industrial lighting. Cortados. Fast internet. The homogeneity of these spaces means that traveling between them is frictionless, a value that Silicon Valley prizes.”

The 2007 introduction of the iPhone opened the door to the social web, transforming our digital lives. By the time Chayka wrote his story in 2016, those technologies were reshaping our physical spaces, too — at global scale.

When Airbnb launched in 2008, it sold itself as a new way to travel, allowing users to experience cities how locals do. It was about human connection and authenticity. But it wasn’t long before a creeping sameness set in: