Monday, November 17, 2008

Design and Mass Appeal/New Materials A

While the first post-war decade of the 1950’s initially brought about a much greater focus on mass media and consumption of goods, the 1960’s expanded on the use of new technologies and materials to create false obsolescence of goods. However, instead of merely focusing on better economic value and functionality to categorize a product as “new,” manufacturers and designers began to focus more on esthetics, combining art and functionality. The wealth of new materials and processes developed in the 1960’s and later began to obscure “the distinction between design and fashion, between needs and wants.” (Raizman, pg 318) This meant that functional design went hand-in-hand with current trends of the time and, as a result, wants became necessities. A few of the main materials used during this time were plastics and metals. Various new processes were used to make strides in areas such as furniture design, product housing, and sports equipment. Changes in furniture design were made possible by the process of injection-molding stronger plastic polymers, molding lighter weight aluminum, and using foam as a construction material instead of merely filler for upholstery. Seating design came to resemble many tendencies in the fine arts, such as abstraction and precision. A few great examples of this include Joe Columbo’s injection-mold plastic side chair and Pierre Paulin’s foam “ribbon chair.” Next, new materials and processes were used to make product housing much more compact, often allowing for more portable products. Called miniaturization, a few examples of this include a portable typewriter developed by Ettore Sottsass and Perry King, a portable television developed by Sony, and the Walkman portable cassette player, also developed by Sony. Finally, the use of metals instead of wood in sports equipment lead to many performance-enhancing changes to more simple designs. The professionals who advertised them endorsed the idea that the newer, lighter, more contoured designs were better for the athletes that used them. One primary example of this was how tennis rackets began to be made from aluminum. All of these new products and processes were supported by the development of brand recognition through graphic design of easily recognizable symbols. These symbols developed corporate identity systems based on the characteristics of those most likely to buy the products, which helped to advertise the products and make them more well known.

Do you think that these advancements demonstrate positive or negative changes to production of goods? How have these products and processes paved the way for products we see in stores today? How has the use of these new materials affected the economy and the styles of today? Are they supportive of the "green design" emphasized in today's society?

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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.