On coloured laptops & professionalism
Recently, I was in the lucky position that I could choose a laptop for my work myself. In order to make the best choice I spent hours on researching which laptops have the best specifications given the budget. And – I have to confess – I also looked at the colour. For me it’s not only important that it works great, but also that it looks great. Why? Because I am very bored by all the black and silver laptops, that supposedly convey the aura of professionalism.
In order to make a rational choice, I only considered those coloured laptops that were comparable to the black alternatives in terms of the specifications which my budget could afford. To my surprise, many good brands advertise their laptops in all sorts of different colours, but when it comes to choosing the model with the better specifications, only black is available. Does that mean the coloured ones are sold out because there are other people like me who want to perform sophisticated stuff on their laptops while at the same time preferring colour in their life? Going for both, functionalityand aesthetics doesn’t sound that contradicting after all, does it? However, I had the feeling that the coloured laptops being sold out might not be the reason why I can’t find any.
I had to call the customer service of one of the brands I was interested in to ask some follow-up questions on the specifications. Why not also smuggle in a question about the colour? So I asked whether they also sell the laptops with the better specifications in other colours than black. The customer service guy replied hesitantly – probably in an attempt to not sound too insulting – that usually only people who don’t have high requirements when it comes to specifications buy coloured laptops. Maybe a nice way of saying that only people who want to play around with their laptops and housewifes doing their grocery excel sheets value colour. But that is only my interpretation.
I don’t believe it’s true that people in need of good specifications, are so detached from their senses that they wouldn’t appreciate some more colour for the thing they spend most of their waking hours with – their laptop. Rather I think we have been socialised to believe that black or silver equals smart and professional. Having a shiny brightly coloured laptop comes across as unprofessional, even though the inside, which is what “the professional people” claim to look for, might be exactly the same.
It is interesting to compare this laptop situation with cars. Often, the same people who almost define their identity over how their 350 HP car looks like judge coloured laptops as unprofessional and its user must surely be incompetent. It is funny that one even doesn’t perceive how a car looks like when driving it, while the opposite can be said about laptops. To me, the reason why coloured laptops convey an unprofessional aura while good looks in a car counts as status symbol is not based on logic, but on socialisation. It’s just the way we grew up. Maybe it takes some time for society to accept that not only functionality is important for humans to enjoy life, but also aesthetics. Cars have been around for longer, so I keep my hopes up that coloured laptops also become the standard, not the exception.
I do have some (exclusively female) colleagues who have coloured laptops. Maybe that already shows a first tendency of rebelling against (or at the very least not caring about) what other people think about what the colour of your laptop says about your competence. After all, so that #IcanbeMe, I bought my metallic rose tablet for conferences and I am proud of it. Not only do I love its looks*, but demonstratively taking out my pink tablet paradoxically makes me feel even more competent. It makes me feel that my competence doesn’t depend on me pretending that I am not a human enjoying aesthetics as well.* And pink is not actually my most favourite colour.
Written by Julia Heuritsch | Last edited: 8th June 2022