Sunday, November 16, 2008

Design and Mass Appeal/New Materials, C

At the end of WWII, the United States, Europe and Japan, the countries most affected by the outcomes of the conflict, experienced a phenomenal growth in all fields, starting mainly from economical.
Thanks to the long period of peace and political stability, the United States was particularly able to accumulate a large amount of money and rebuild its economical and political powers.
It is during this time that the development of new materials, such as Bakelite, Lucite, Vynilite, Rayon and Nylon, new techniques and the electrification of the assembly line brought new possibilities in all fields of design and architecture. Also, the time of peace allowed people to enjoy their leisure time and really look forward to achieve their desires. New luxurious beach resorts came to play an important role in Americans new vacation times because they offered services that were not available in the domestic sphere and because they opened a new market for travelling.
From the 1950s, we rapidly saw the development of a mass culture that appreciated money, beauty and luxury.
Thanks to magazines and catalogues, people were now able to choose from a wide variety of products, from houses to home appliances, cars and fashion products, sport goods and toys.
William Levitt, considered the Henry Ford of housing, introduced the mass production of houses. As people moved away from the city into the suburbia, they wanted new, cheap houses, and Levitt gave them what they needed. Thanks to the use of inexpensive materials, like concrete, wood studs, dry walls, etc., and the fast methods of construction, these prefabricated houses could be put up in a very short time and efficient manner at a very low cost, starting from $ 7900 (Raizman, page 305). Even though it created conformity and peripheral areas look almost entirely the same, everyone could customize their house the way the wanted to. Also, with the availability of new products (television, radio, home appliances, kitchens, chairs, home d├ęcor, etc.), people started to fill these places with as much stuff as possible, and, likewise the Victorian Era, they could show off their status by displaying all that they had. On top of that, if they could afford one of the new models of automobiles, they could park this one in their new garage, attached to the house – one of the new features of the prefabricated residence.
Because of the abundance of products and the possibility of customization, the new concept of obsolescence came to be of great importance in post war society. As new objects were produced and advertised, old ones became out of fashion. Everything, from fashion to interior design products, home appliances and sports goods, was affected by seasonal changes, even if minimal. The late 19th century society became known as a throwaway society deeply affected by advertising and vogue.

After the war, Europe started to rebuild what was left, trying to keep a balance between their historical past and the modernist influence coming from the United States and Japan. Because money was a problem and there was not much of it left after the war, obsolescence and mass culture less affected Europe, and did not allow the mass production of goods and especially houses. In fact, if you get a chance to travel to Europe, you will see that conformity and standardization are not as common as they are in the United States. Why do you think the United States opted for standardization instead of diversity? Even in clothing today, such as Abercrombie or Hollister, seasonal changes are very minimal. In the design of houses, we still see prefabricated houses and residences that look very similar. Do you believe that conformity is an advantage or disadvantage to American traditions and culture? How do you think the United States is seen from the outside because of this globalization within its own borders?


olivia said...

During this time, I think that the US opted for standardization of their goods and designs instead of diversity for a couple of reasons. First, WWII had just finished. The US citizens watched as countries were torn apart. By choosing a standard way of designing goods and services, I think the US thought it was becoming more united as a country. If everyone was on an even playing field, we are one. And secondly, by mass marketing goods and services, the US was creating an "American" design type. A sense of patriotism was probably not overlooked during this time. With this idea of conformity, I believe it was a positive thing for traditions. There was clearly a style that became widely popular that many people today still associate with that time period. I think the US is seen as a unique country by others because of our globalization in our own country. We are seen as a powerful nation that its citizens believe in.

Meaghan Boenig said...

I find conformity and standardization boring and obviously very uncreative. However, after a time war, when Americans were working towards rebuilding the country, these concepts were an easy solution. World War II accelerated the pace of change and production in the United States. During the war, Americans had grown accustomed to the necessity and easiness of mass production. So why would they not continue to mass produce houses and products in a time when the country was suffering? I also think the United States opted for standardization because in a way it represented coming together and becoming a united country. For this reason, I guess conformity can be viewed as an advantage. Conformity can be seen as a trait that bonds and connects people in a patriotic way. However, conformity has its disadvantages as well. As I said before conformity is monotonous and uncreative. Although America is considered to be a young country, it still has a lot of history - history that should be showcased and visible through its architecture and material culture.

Parahita Rachmani said...

Standardization in the United States emerged because mass culture had been established and associated with the modern society. People were looking for houses and appliances that would easily assist them in an efficient manner; hence, architecture, furniture, and industrial design that were practical had been offered in mass-production. In addition, books and advertising had influenced the era with their portrayal of “good design” and made these home goods that much more in demand. Manufacturers wanted their product to appeal to all classes of people. Conformity also led trends to occur, since everyone wanted to have and wear articles of goods that were widely advertised. This might have affected how individuals developed their identity since diversity was minimal. However, I believe that standardization could greatly relate to humanity since it has carried through universal design, which should appeal to every mankind. I suppose this is how the United States stands out in its own way among other countries, that we try to engage everyone in every situation and activity.

Katie Bluhm said...

The standardization at that time took away from the uniqueness of the United States. What are the unique aspects of our nation that are known to the world? What is America known for? What makes our cities unique from others across the world? What tangible object can be contributed to the United States?
I can't think of anything off the top of my head. Things that symbolize the US aren't specifically ours. The Statue of Liberty for example signifies the freedom of America. Except, the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France - a display of their great sculptural and artistic ability. Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon which Americans take pride in are not man-made things. Americans did not make them, they are natural wonders.
When you think of other nations, you think of the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Wall of China, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Taj Mahal in India. All great, man-made wonders that the nations can claim as their own. Each used their own ideas, man power and traditions to create something symbolic to their land.
What makes the United States unique is that we have taken the ideas and traditions of other nations and combined them to make our own. We have accepted those that left Europe in search for a new beginning. Among those were artists, writers, and architects. Those people have made the US what it is today.

AinsleyW said...

I think Americans began opting for standardization for two reasons: 1) It's cheaper to mass-produce things than it is to individualize them. For developers it's usually all about making the most money possible. Construction workers are paid hourly, so the faster a house can go up the better. Using pre-fab materials, pre-cut lumber, pre-designed layouts would mean less time and less money for the developer or the speculator to shell out.
2) Most people are uncomplicated. "The American Dream" was an image of a sort of standardized home on a standardized plot of land and once people achieved that home they didn't look much further for satisfaction. Why fool with things like personality or identity if you're just as happy with things the way they are. For some people, being the same as everyone else signified arrival in a sort of priveleged society and any deviation from that was scary.

Meredith J. said...

I think we chose standardization over diversity because we wanted to show that even after sending soldiers to fight in the war, we wanted to show that we as the United States were one unified country, rather than 50 individual states. I think it was also a necessity for Americans. With the war brought rations, and rations of materials and products meant that we were low on some things and then had a higher abundance of some things. Diversity is great, when you want to show how things can be different all in one time period, but I think the standardization of the homes brought a sense of pride to the US. It showed that we were unified, but it also seemed to develop its own style; a style that was accepted nation wide and that people overseas would be able to distinguish as it coming from America. I think that this conformity was an advantage.

Shannon S said...

I think it was important for the United States to have standardization after the war. War is a time to pull together as a country. Everyone works together to pick the country back up as a whole and fix the problem that arose. We all have personal experience with this due to 9/11 and the War in Iraq. Mass production helped the cost of products to stay low. They stuck with this as their solution because it was working efficiently. It seemed silly to change the way things work when the current solution worked just fine. Abercrombie and Hollister are run following this same rule. They sell a lot of clothes that are practically the same style. They do not change because that is the image they want to portray and it works for them. For America, I think conformity was important because it helped to form a style. A lot of houses today are very similar in style, however certain archtectural details fluctuate from house to house. Many builders follow a similar pattern but then experiment with different details. Eventually, these details are combined to one house; creating a brand new style.
Because of the globalization within the borders, the United States will always look like the American Dream to outside countries.

Christa Mueller said...

It's true that the US is more standardized than other countries, in building, art, style, innovation, etc. Question is, is this a lesser way. Does this mean that the U.S. is lacking in style or culture. I personally tend to op more for European and non-western styles. This is purely for that reason. I find them to be more infused with interest, through culture and diversity. But through all of her standardization, I don't think that the U.S. is lacking in uniqueness. The fact that U.S. style is standardized more than other countries draws attention to them because that makes them diverse. U.S. style is very different from other countries. Because the styles change only subtly, this expresses a comfortable confidence which reflects the perspective that most other countries have of us. In the case of post war design, the U.S. was finally back on its feet again and because of their war efforts were seen to a strong force. This made way for this comfortable, confident style which is seen today. Why mess with something that works, is the mentallity of many Americans when looking at style.

Kayla.E said...

Well i think that the United States opted for more standardization than diversity just for the simple face that here our 'motto' is supposed to be that everyone is equal and we're all american. So in a way i guess diversity is kinda of looked down upon or seems not as up to par with the rest in america. Especially during that time period. In some ways conformity is kind of both an advantage and disadvantage to American tradition. As i said before American prides itself 'togetherness' and everyone is an American, so in a since conformity aids in our American traditions, but also if America wants to move forward and stay on top in the world we are going to have to branch out and break away from some conformity. From the outside world i think America is seen as this power house that doesn't really know how to fully embrace our own atrributes. We are supposed to be this 'perfect' country that can do anything yet we rely on other countries for so many things that we can do ourselves. I guess its all in the eye of the beholder as they say.

nicoLe said...

Creating standardization of goods was important for am economic standpoint, and as olivia said, could have possibly aide in uniting this country. However, from a creative or design standpoint, this new trend showed little diversity and in turn negatively effected aesthetics. A standardized method of creation becomes mundane and frankly clouds the taste of Americans. Because neighborhoods are often built using only several model types, there is little that makes "yours" unique. I would even go as far as saying that self-expression is lost. When there are less choices, there are more poeple with the SAME items and goods, causing each individual to be less original in their outward appearance, be it clothing, house, car, you name it. Though items are often able to be personalized these days, this so called personalization is often a mere choice of color or pattern. And in actuality, is that personal?

This blog is intended for the interior design students in the college of design at the University of Kentucky. It was created with the intent to present students with information, providing them with a channel for contemplation and discussion.