Monday, November 3, 2008

Industrial Design and Art Deco


It was primarily during the interwar period of history that the position of “industrial designer” saw great development and in turn, industry saw great development from this wide-spreading position. The industrial designer was first solely concerned with creating products that were efficient and functional. The industrial designer wished to create a product that could quickly and easily be created with the machine, was affordable to the general public, and served all of the user’s basic needs. Thus, they created products that were simple, cheap, and functional. Henry Ford and his production of the Model T automobile is a great example of this take on industrial design. Ford produced over 15 million Model T’s over a ten year period with the same “black lacquer finish and carriage-based body form” (Raizman 210). Due to the invention of the assembly line within the Ford Motor Company factory, Model T’s could be produced easily, quickly, and because there was a lack of competition to such speed in the manufacturing process, cheaply. However, Ford was not seeking to create unique automobiles that appealed to his individual customers, instead he was simply creating a single product for mass-production. Thus, his costumers were at a loss for individualized products as were all consumers during this period of industrial design. Consumers could easily obtain functional, inexpensive products, but they were not unique in any way.

It was during this time that industrial designers moved away from the blandness of mass-producing function and function only and began “styling” products to increase consumer appeal, while still retaining a design that was highly functional and efficient. Increasing consumer appeal was very important at this time due to the severe economic downfall of the Great Depression. Styled products were those that had a modern design approach and were “streamlined.” Many products had a unified body which housed all necessary components in one unit and was without interruptions from “ugly seams,” and had rounded edges that helped to achieve the streamlined design approach (Sparke, 99). Raymond Loewy’s Coca-Cola Fountain Dispenser was a styled design that had both a unified body and an attractive streamlined design through the implementation of curves on the product’s edges. Loewy, like many industrial designers, was successful in creating a branded product for the Coca-Cola Company and elevated the company’s sale’s success and familiarity among consumers through his design. Thus, industrial designers had now become branding agents for varying companies and were just as in tune with creating functional products as they were with creating appealing products consistent with the particular company’s theme.

Consider a specific company from today and determine whether or not an industrial designer had created a specific brand through their designs that speaks for the company altogether. This was the effect of the first industrial designers, is it still a relevant concept for today’s industrial designers?

4 comments:

Carrie.Marcum said...

The specific company in my mind would be dirt devil and the dirt devil KONE. The industrial designer for the dirt devil KONE is Karim Rashid. When the dirt devil KONE came out it was the first of its kind and Karim Rashid said himself “create an elegant, sculptural form that can be left on display - on your table, shelf, or counter. That way, your hand vac will always be charged. Always ready. No more searching a closet only to find an unplugged unit. KONE, It's the new shape of clean.” I believe the this is still a relevant concept for today’s industrial designers with Karim Rashid begin a great example, along with Michael Graves for Target and James Dyson for Dyson. As talked about in the blog, the great depression had a big effect on products and how products were “streamlined.” Industrial designer are going to have to started thinking in new ways because of the economic downfall going on right now. New designs are going on right now because of the situation our country is in right now. It’s going to be exciting to see what new things are designed and why they were designed that way because of this situation.

Amy Clark said...

The company that comes to my mind first is Ralph Lauren (not only because it's a well-known, highly recognized brand but also because I worked there for several years). I honestly don't know if an industrial designer created the brand through their designs or not; it's probably more likely that Mr. Lauren himself played a major role. The brand and logo definitley speak for the company. Ralph Lauren puts a great deal of effort into creating an image for the brand through product offering and marketing/advertising. The most popular, biggest volume producing item is the men's Polo knit shirt. The in-house designers were always looking for ways to improve and differentiate this item (offer variety like fit change, color options, stripes, various fabrics, etc) to generate more sales. I believe the title of Loewy's autobiography "Never Leave Well Enough Alone" sums it up
accurately (Raizman, 215). The concept of creating a brand through design is still very relevant today. A company has to be able to separate itself from competitors to be successful. Finding ways to drive consumer demand through new technological advances and esthetics is key. You have to give consumers a reason to spend (especially in today's economic environment). A friend of mine just purchased a new Dell computer, and the first comment she made was "it's pink". I have no doubt that an industrial designer played a big role in that product option!

Kelsey Giauque said...

Interestingly enough, it is still the primary concern of the designer to create something efficient and functional in the 21st century, an idea which became highly important during the interwar period. Because of the immense need, rapid production was a central issue when creating goods (supply and demand), thus the machine was utilized in the making of objects, consequently making products cheaper. The idea was not like today’s concept of individualized products made directly for a specific persons needs, in contrast, during this time, the primary concern was mass production of goods of uniform standards. Also as discussed in the Sparke, Industrial Designer reading, the industrial designer “is neither just an artist, not simply an engineer, nor a researcher but rather a combination of all three” (Industrial Designer, 94). Not only could the design of a good product sell itself, but a new level of advertising was necessary in order to promote the idea. The Teague, National Cash Register, developed in 1935, to help count the profit, is an example of a design which capitalized on functionality and efficiency, while using the modern machine for production and advertising to help promote the product. Today cash registers still appear, efficient and functional, and still require advertising, yet today they are sleek and sophisticated and are designed to fit specific businesses needs.

AinsleyW said...

Along with designing products as part of a brand, industrial designers today are designing products as a part of a lifestyle image. Almost any product that you buy- computers, clothes, shampoo, you name it- has a lifestyle that it is selling along with its product. The mac computer I'm typing on right now sells an image that we're all familiar with- the young hip smart guy who's 'with it' in contrast to the old fogie outdated PC man. The shampoo I use conjures up the image of a young, slim, carefree woman with great hair (and a great life because of her great hair).
It is designers that crafted this image for today's products just as it was industrial designers that crafted the new streamlined images for their products in the 1930's. As Raizman points out, even then, it was housewives who were being targeted to buy these new streamlined products and they too were being sold image. It may have been more subtle, but a streamlined toaster oven in the 1930's meant the same modernity and prosperity that a sleek jumboscreen mac computer means to us today.

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.