Sunday, November 16, 2008

Design & Mass Appeal/New Materials B


In the 1950’s the expansion of both the middle and industrial class brought mass media into focus. Mass media, mass culture and mass market are all inter-related. The traditional standards of “Good Design” were influence by false obsolescence. Obsolescence is used to convince consumers that they need the next “new” thing. A critic, Reyner Banham aptly described this phenomenon as a “throwaway culture” (Raizman, pg. 295)
Many industries used obsolescence to market their products. During the 50’s the biggest example of this is the automotive industry. General Motors president Alfred Sloan used annual stylizing changes to “create a vehicle “for every purse”, defining a series of gradations from efficiency to luxury in terms of visible difference…”. (Raizman, pg. 296) The number of car makers began to decrease because of the competition to promote their annual changes. Brand identification was also very important.
Advertising for cars came in many forms. Hollywood helped to show the freedom and individual expression in movies like American Graffiti. Ads in magazines and newspapers showed attractive couples either coming in from a night out or at some fabulous restaurant. These ads helped to equate luxury with cars.
Obsolescence can also be found in the model home market. Instead of different models every year, it was used to show individuality. “And like car makers, they used styling to give buyers an illusion of choice”; this pretty much sums up the model housing in the 1950’s. (Votolato, pg. 227) Consumers were offered choices to make the model homes not so cookie-cutter. Practical considerations also drew consumers. Kitchens with picture windows, attached garages and appliances tried to tip the scale of conformity.
The 1950’s was about convenience. Time saving appliances, model homes, cheap products were all the rage. How has this affected today’s culture? Do you think design in this period had a large impact on design today? Give some examples of obsolescence today. Do you think false obsolescence is a good marketing tool?

13 comments:

Sabrina said...

It seems that this was the beginning of personalization within design. Companies, with their respected designers, were interested in attracting customers and had come to realize that design had a significant impact on drawing in potential costumers. By creating products that were easy to use, easy to clean, easy to ship, attractive, and altogether, convenient, the designers of the 1950’s certainly influenced the future of the commercialized product and its marketing. Today, we don’t accept a product as successful unless it is efficient in matters of hygiene, speed, and practicality, and attractive at the same time. Of course, attractiveness largely depends on the particular style, shape, and color popular at the time which is a direct result of artificial obsolescence. This concept has transformed the world of retail. It has brought the world from a society where everyone once drove identical black automobiles to a world of completely individualized complexities. Every product and every service offered to the current-day consumer is unique. Its various specialties and individualities are the components that ultimately sell the product. The fact that retailers have been tricking billions of people around the world for decades now through artificial obsolescence scares a small bit. Its amazing that we are so concerned with such trivial things as a “popular” colored laptop or a “stylish” purse. We simply follow what variuos companies tell us is correct or popular. This is a mind-blowing concept, literally! However, you can’t deny its effectiveness in the retail world, that’s for sure!

Carrie.Marcum said...

I think the start of these cheap products and products that were manufactured so fast were all the rage then and have been ever since. Time saving appliances is never ending. I mean for goodness sake my mom has a “hotshot” that boils water in less than 30 seconds. These products have affected today’s culture to always be on the run and having to do the dishes is not going to slow you down because all you have to do is to put them into the dishwasher and walk away. So overall I feel that overall designs then had a big impact on designs today. Some examples of obsolescence today are always scene in fashion and accorieces. It is scene in car ads, and almost a product sold today. Think false obsolescence is a good marketing tool and that it makes people feel like they need the product. Whenever I see that Sunday ads I always want to go shopping for new stuff because I feel like my older stuff is no good anymore.

Chris Jones said...

I see today's culture as somewhat of a "model-culture". Production is in high demand. The population is escalating to immense numbers, so the demand needs to be met. When you think of today's suburbs, there's still a lot of cookie-cutter houses. They're implemented to get as many of them out there as possible. So I think the development of this type of subdivision construction back in the 50's still plays a major role in today's site planning and efficiency. My favorite type of obsolescence is the automobile. For years, automobile industries have stressed the need to keep up with the Jones' (no pun intended ;]). It's even extended as far as safety features. The newest cars are said to be the safest. So, I think obsolescence is important and is a good thing. Without it, I think a company would fail. Design teams have to know what consumers want and they have to know how to change it while keeping the brand. Without the brand, the product loses it's identity entirely.

Amy Clark said...

Society in the 1950's was focused on convenience as is our culture today. People are busy with a limited amount of free time; therefore, products that are time saving are seen as beneficial. I can't imagine not having a dishwasher or washer and dryer. The products, appliances and homes created during the 50's set the stage for our present day material expectations. Technological advances as well as aesthetic changes in product development and design continue today. Just consider the evolution of the cell phone (a product of convenience). The cell phone is a good example of obsolescence; the ever changing shape/size, color options and added functions fuel consumer demand. My five year old cell phone still works but I want a new one because mine is "out of date". I feel that obsolescence is a good marketing tool as it drives spending and stimulates the economy. If there was not a reason (real or perceived) to buy new products each year/season, many companies would fail. That would negatively impact us all.

maggie clines said...

In the culture we live in today, the idea o f obsolescence has gotten out of hand. The way marketers have developed the idea of obsolesces has increased since the 1950s. We have now become so influenced by the culture of mass media that we feel like we even need the newest nail polish color that is in style. I guess if I worked for a company that needed to make money, yes the philosophy of obsolescence is a good marketing tool. It causes people to feel inadequate because they don’t have what is “hot” right now. I also feel that the culture of clothing has taken this idea to the max. I think that with every passing season, there is the new ideal that everyone wants and that no one has. I think that in today’s culture there is no escaping obsolescence we all at some point fall victim to it.

Molly Rowland said...

False obsolescence can be viewed as either a negative or a postiive part of today's society.
For companies, false obsolescence brings in income. Today, we are not allowed to wear white after labor day. In result, consumers must buy different clothing according to each season. It is almost as if certain clothes are required for summer, fall, winter, and spring. For the consumer, this may be a hastle, but for clothing companies, this is a means of making money.
In conclusion, false obsolescence is good for certain companies, however, for the consumer, it only requires more money and more effort.

Kelsey said...

Ironically, the 1950’s convenience was a luxury, today luxury is the ordinary . So somehow between the 1950’s and today, luxury has become the normal. Because of technology, “things” have been easier, faster, and more efficient to build. Even though they have arguably become “cheaper, ” without them, the average American would not have been capable of getting to where we are today. And even though people are skeptical of false obsolescence, it helps breed competition and helps the competition the economy grow and keep moving forward. It helps the economy change and grow at rates which we did not grow before.

Carrie R. said...

Depending on the person, i think that false obsolescence can be viewed as both negative and positive. Like molly said, it may be considered as positive for the producer but negative for the consumer. Since it is socially acceptable to purchase and wear certain colors and styles according to the season, it benefits the producer and causes the consumer to spend more money. But it's also not just about clothes. false obsolescence occurs in personalized items as well, for instance the choice to personalize your own vehicle by choosing its color to "express" yourself through it. this concept occurs in many other products as well- anything from jewelry & accessories to choosing the color to your own laptop. i believe that false obsolescence occurs through advertisement and the idea of creating your own identity through the products you purpose.

carrie w said...

The 1950’s was about convenience. Time saving appliances, model homes, cheap products were all the rage. How has this affected today’s culture? Do you think design in this period had a large impact on design today? Give some examples of obsolescence today. Do you think false obsolescence is a good marketing tool?

The 1950s was not all about convience!! It was all about life! Ever since the dawn of time women have tried so hard to become equal to men. this has completely affected todays culture. We all have to have the latest designs of what is current!! Obselecense is current today in fashon and commercial design. it is everywhere you look!!! From fashon to home design it is everywhere and will always be. That is just the way it is and will always be!c

Elizabeth Chaffin said...

Today, many people rely on material culture for their purchases and inspirations. However, I feel there is much more to life than obsolescence. Even though the change in fashions, styles, and cultures influence what is demanded by the mass economy, there is more to it than that.
Retail markets depend on what becomes "popular" in the magazines and media to bring in their income and such. It provides mass amounts of material growth and sales. If companies relied solely on individual preferences, the sales wouldn't be as high. However, philosophies are developed to regulate sales and gain sales exponentially.
Ones are influenced by what is considered popular by the standards of culture and fashion of that particular time. The influence of others can regulate. When others buy a certain product, this makes others want to buy the same product, not necessary the exact product, but something similiar in taste. Thus, generating the economy and growth.

Jessica Brake said...

In today’s culture false obsolescence is everywhere you look. It’s probably the number one marketing tool out there. People always want more then what they have. Their looking for the next best thing, even if it’s the same version only in a different color; i.e. iPods, laptops, etc. We are a product of a fast paced, fast moving, no time to slow down and enjoy the simple things kind of world and it makes you wonder if the influence of false obsolescence is what impacted our fast paced culture today. If so, it works! I know that for me when I see the newest cell phone, camera, or even clothes I feel like I have to buy them just to keep up with everything.

gnjones15 said...

False obsolescence is a great marketing tool. It keeps consumer demand high and production up as well as provides jobs. The downfall though is leading the customer to believe they need something they only want. A good example in todays society is cell phones. Every day new models come out that are newer and better and more technologically advanced than the previous. I have a phone that is not the coolest thing but had worked well for two years. I believe that this has made todays culture one of instant gratification, short attention spans, and materialism.

Moore13 said...

Yes!Obsolescence is a big part of what drives the fashion world today. For example the colors this fall are yellows and purple where as last year they were shades of blue. For fashion junkies the change in season colors means there is a need to shop to keep up with the fashion world. Styles rarely change from season to season in order to keep the sales of clothing up desingers simply change to colors of the season,(who doesnt want their favorite shirt in a different color)?Obsolescence keeps people buying the lastest products. It shows just how materialistic people are not that it's always a bad thing but designers know their clients and design towards them.

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