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?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Art Deco and Industrial Design B

The message portrayed in the 1939 New York World’s Fair was one of efficiency, improvement and an overall optimism for the future quality of life. The vision of the Exposition was “Building the World of Tomorrow,” and featured developments in transportation and comfort of living. In the Futurama exhibit, “traffic flow in the modern metropolis was managed by multi lane highways and banked exit ramps, as well as by a radio-controlled system that monitored speed and distance between vehicles”(Raizman 221). This exhibit stressed the importance of highways as well as helped stimulate the purchase of new cars. In addition to improvements in transportation, the fair took advantage of the efficiency and logic of modern technology to “erase differences contradictions, conflicts and irritants” (Raizman 222). Overall, the products of the exhibition provided the economy with “tangible ‘proof’ of improvement and sufficient cause for optimism” – a key aspect in recovering from the Great Depression. The exhibition allowed people to see that the economy was running again, and things were in fact returning to normal.
Today, the economy is in rough shape once again. Jobs are being lost, companies are becoming bankrupt, and the average American is scared of spending whatever money they might have. We live in fear of the return of the Great Depression. The recent radical drop in the economy causes industry leaders to critique the current performance of our products. These revisions will yet again lead to improvements in daily life and means of survival. Parallel to the improvements in transportation of the late 1930’s, motor companies are developing new means of transportation and fuel use. We are researching more cost-efficient and eco-friendly ways of transportation, to ignite the new era of industrial technology. Just as the exposition of 1939 revolved around making life more enjoyable and leisurely than years past, researchers are finding new ways of giving back to society.
It is obvious that our current economic standing reflects the situation of the 1930’s. Can the arrival of 2009 jump start the reformation of the economy the way the World’s Fair of 1939 did? Or will we have to go through much worse conditions before serious restructuring can occur? What will it take for our society to pull together in a patriotic movement to dig ourselves out of this rut and return to the prosperous nation we have always been?

Art Deco and Industrial Design A

After the war, the United States’ history of modern design could not be discussed without mentioning the importance of advertising. That time after the war was considered a “culture of consumption.” (Raizman 223) Everyone was excited about the new technological advances and how the mass production of products was helping their economy; but word of the mouth wasn’t enough. There’s where the world of advertisements came into play. Tools that were used to help “spread the word” were things such as photography, layout and typography on things such as posters to visually communicate their products efficiently and effectively. These advertisements were to build and strengthen the companies and their key products. The advertisements themselves were depicted in terms of the product being used in a more upscale setting, like a nice Model T car being driven to go watch a polo match or a golf tournament. They were to show the products being used in everyday leisurely activities and how they could be used while living the “good life.” Such advertisements could be seen in mass-circulated magazines such as The Ladies Home Journal.

Advertisers believed that the purpose of such advertisements was to sell the company’s products and that reference to the individual artists or to the works of art focused attention upon the ad as an “object” rather than as a promotion product (Raizman 225). Here, we saw a switch from photography used as a form of advertisement device to a form of journalism; capturing the use of the product as everyday people used it on a regular basis. Art directors turned to photographic reproduction for it “objective” truth and its visual impact.

Did all these new advertisement ploys seem to create a new visual culture in the US? If so, can this still be seen in today’s society? Do you think that the advertisers originally used the portrayal of the “good life” to show how they wanted their products to be used? Do you think that advertisements today tend to show products used in a more everyday sense or used in a more upscale, exclusive manner?

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.