Sunday, November 11, 2007

Design and mass appeal/ new materials

After World War II the manufacturing industry started to explode due to the new forms of marketing and the public was tuning in and listening to what the companies had to offer. The working class was added to the target audience of the marketing strategies due to the increase in production in the manufactories the working class was earning higher wages. One of the new strategies to increase production after the Model T from Ford came out was the term obsolescence. To companies this meant they would offer options to the consumer instead of just one standard style and that there were always new editions coming out in the market constantly. This idea was endorsed also by the growing ads about “Keeping up with the Jones” and with the new development of new materials. These new materials included different types of plastics that enabled the companies to come out with different colors and textures as well as Formica, a vinyl-like flooring tile, as well as laminated plywood that was used on furniture as a surface covering. This lead to companies simply applying new finishes instead of creating or revising a product and market it as the new “must have” of the season. These manufactories were producing at such alarming rates one might wonder how they had the time to design these new products. This was seen more in the car industry as bands fought to be the first to produce a new design that the public would love. This “mass design” was a very risky business so many companies limited “the role of the design to superficial elements of product housing rather than integrating design with engineering, ergonomics, or other research-based considerations.” This was all due to the large scale of competition brought on by the increasing manufactories and trying to produce the latest and greatest. So due to this high competion do you think obsolescence hurt or helped good quality design as a whole?

8 comments:

NBUSHdesign said...

I am often times finding myself conflicted between the options of favoritism on these varying topics discussed. Obsolescence has both hurt, and nurtured design.

To this day, giving options is a huge sell point to many companies and attracts consumers. Often times pulling them away from products of similar quality that do not have options. Cars today are an ideal example of this situation. The European foreign cars boast their incomparable of power, performance, and interior luxury over American cars, singling out those who want nice options.

I keep referring back to a phrase as I write this; “Got to keep your options open.” This really explains the importance of obsolescence in our world today. People always want to find better products, more aesthetic, more ergonomic, whatever way it could be better than what they currently have. The same goes for jobs and relationships.

I think obsolescence in reference to design opened up the door to consumers really having a say in what they want their products to look like, and make them reflect more of their style, taste, and likes. It has nurtured a products’ application base to be used in different scenarios through options. It has also allowed for specialization of specific products that make them highly efficient because the forms have been worked with for a longer period of time than new ones.

I think it has hurt design also. One is that it may have stifled the creativity of designers because they knew they could fall back on old products that they could reface. It seems I raise a question myself of how much have we sacrificed in creativity for specialization and refinement?

Lauren Fleming said...

I agree with Nathan that obsolescence has both hurt and nurtured design. By giving the consumer options the mass appeal was greater because aesthetics were taken into consideration. Same machine/ object, but different looks. This created an individualtiy in society. For example, what you drove defined who you were. More designers/ designs were wanted which created a great opportunity for designers in the modern world.

The problem with obsolescence is that once you give the opportunity of individuality the demand for more unique designs is much higher and can put a strain on the market. When the "new" model/item comes out it must be magnificent and better than its previous model. If these expectations are not met with the consumers then the market falls. Because of this the consumer might turn to another manufacturer who has met or exceeded his/her expectations. This causes intense competition in the business world and the posibility of market domination if one company continues to be sucessful.

In today's society,because everyone has different taste in aesthetics, there is always something to meet their needs. If you can think of it you can probably find something that will satisfy your expectations/wants.

I truely believe that individuality is what makes the world a fun and interesting place. You just have to keep up with progress.

laurelchristensen said...

The whole idea behind obsolescence was to continue to 'update' products so that the consumers would have new reasons to purchase things that they already had. In the automobile industry, new colors and options and a new 'streamlined' look tempted consumers to buy. Appliances were updated and made easier to clean, so instead of just putting in a little more elbow grease after they got done cooking, housewives would go out and buy a new oven to make their jobs easier.
Everything was about making life easier, and freeing up more time for leisure. Then there were new products created to be used during leisure time.

Because of the new principle of obsolescence, designers became a hot commodity because products had to be redesigned every year to be more appealing to consumers. I think that obsolescence did help design, but I think the real issue is what it did to our culture. The theory of obsolescence and it's implementation in the post-war world turned us toward a 'culture of consumption.' We became the 'throw-away culture' that we are today, constantly buying new and unnecessary items because our old ones are outdated.

Kasey said...

Maybe I'm confused, but I think of obsolescence as more than a change in finishes, but rather an innovation or improvement upon an existing design. Also, it is not constant...part of its appeal is the anticipation from one season to the next.
That being said, I think obsolescence is a "natural" solution for design. We've all heard it OVER and OVER, design is a process, it is ongoing, designs are never finished (and so on and so forth :) ), and this is demonstrated in obsolescence. A basic design is taken and changed again and again to adapt to ever changing consumer needs and wants. Jessica even said in her blog that companies were striving to produce the "latest and GREATEST".
The only real set back (I can think of right now) for consumers in regards to obsolescence is that it contributes GREATLY to enabling our culture to be wasteful and materialistic.

estee said...

I think obselescence neither hurt or helped design. Like any design, you have good quality and bad quality. I think in some some sense, obselescence helped with innovative design because the demands were at the time of post World War II were to keep coming up the new, best design. This is probably where the competitiveness of the design world was greatly influenced! Without this new idea of obselescence, where would we be today? We would all still be living in the cookie cutter neighborhoods like in Edward Scissor hands....

J Kan said...

Obsolescence was inevitable. People want something that is unique to them. If they could not buy something unique they will find to stand out among the masses. Cookie cutting a product may be a good move for the company from a production stand point but it will only work if the market has been monopolized. In Henry Ford’s case he did have a monopoly on the market so making only one style car worked. However, as soon as consumers had an option his methods were in trouble. The drawback to obsolescence is that now the consumers are the driving force in design. Market research and product testing are a must before a design can be put into production. The public must approve. So in many cases designers are hindered by the public opinion. There could be a great design that has been created however the public is not ready for change so the design is put away for another day.

Melanie Ormerod said...

I believe that obsolescence had an all around impact on design quality as a whole. With it being the end of World War 2 and many women that were working for the war were going back to the home they wanted to be able to spend, more time with their family. Therefore, they want to get things done faster and free up time to spend that time with their family. This wanting of more free time lead to the demand of the products to make it possible. This pushed the envelope for sleaker designs to catch people's attention, so they would want to buy the new shiny thing. But the problem with this is that even though a company might have come out with a "new & improved" product that didn't always mean that the machanics and use of the product improved, just the look of it changed. This began to produce products that were not needed, but people though they needed them because it was new.

Jenna said...

Obsolescence didn’t hurt good quality design. It may not have initially improved design in a big way, but it definitely didn’t hurt it. If anything, it gave customers options and experimented with the different ways an item could be perceived. I think that good design can offer something for everyone as well as be functional for most people. If one person wants a blue car or one person wants a red car, they have options. This goes to show the wide range of design. It’s a creative process, so why not explore every ally, so as to reach more people? If obsolescence didn’t exist, I’m afraid that we might get too comfortable as designers, knowing that what was once good now will be good tomorrow and the next day. There is integrity in that view, however good designers are constantly changing, exploring and improving (even by color change) their product or space. It’s never finished. Therefore what is good today, may not be as good next year. Obsolescence also fuels our economy and drives competition. The more money taken in, the more opportunity to research and design new and better ways to serve customers through a new design. So overall, I think it helped.

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