Depression Business Models

With the economy is crisis the manufacturing industry will be virtually shutting down soon as consumers pull in their horns and spend less.

What are your plans to stay in what is essentially a service based business?

Who will be your clients?

What new areas might open to the Industrial Designer?

Raymond Loewy started designing in '29, the same year as the Great Crash & start of the Great Depression.

When people have less money, the spend it more wisely. Design is one method to communicate the quality, durability and value of a product. We should be blooming.

Design is one method to communicate the quality, durability and value of a product. We should be blooming.

Should being the operative word here.

With the purchase(s) of automobiles and major appliances dropping through the floor, the reduction of the manufacture of these items will soon follow. With capital frozen as it is, new tooling, let alone development, will be harder if not impossible to secure.

We have a 1983 Sears Kenmore refrigerator in our kitchen which dearly needs to be replaced by a new, energy-efficient model. But it won’t be, not for a while longer. My wife’s '98 MB CLK is starting to show some wear but it won’t be replaced by a new, or even, newer one. And my ‘89 Silverado is a truck for cryin’ out loud, it won’t be replaced until, well, probably never; I can rebuild it.

I think there a re a lot of people in, or soon to be in, the same boat.

So my question is, who is it that we, as industrial designers, are going to design for?

I agree with Mr-914 and I’ve experienced it personally at several companies that saw massive cutbacks in other areas.

people you will be designing for will be those who see the value in design. those who will be designing for them will be a value.

those who see the value in design.

Then basically it’s just simple math: < of them = < of us.

As far as new business is concerned, no one has a clue … ?

lmo: perhaps the US will become like Cuba and designers can work in shops creating custom replacement parts for all the existing stuff we have?

Two images come to mind…

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Well, LMO, I see a certain amount of panic in your recent posts.

  • I don’t think, that pictures of the big depression do the current situation any justice. But I found something more appropriate at the german .


a caricature by Gerhard Haderer, Austria.

Well, hopefully the same policies that prolonged the depression won’t be copied in the next administration, although it looks like they will if things continue in the same direction. It’s good to know some current designers have experienced this situation before and that design was not something abandoned (by the smart companies anyway).

it’s not every segment that’s slowing down, there’s going to be a shift to what/where the money still flows. 2/3 of the economy is fine. (not to belittle anything)

we may need to relocate or pick up new skills (languages even).

as always, our flexiblity and competitiveness is what keeps us going. Even if your industry is safe expect lot’s of talent knocking on your bosses door looking to replace you!

we may need to relocate or pick up new skills (languages even).

Eine rechtzeitige Bemerkung.

Panik? Ja, ein bisschen. Nach vier Jahren von Ausbildung für einen
neuen Beruf, meine Position wurde Freitag Nachmittag beseitigt.

Es saugt!

Aber es war eine lustige Karikatur. Dankbar habe ich ein Segelboot. :wink:

The important thing to remember is that even at the height of the great depression (which this isn’t), unemployment was “only” 20-some percent. Most people had jobs and continued to make purchases. I was talking to my grandparents about those days a while ago. Times were tough, but it wasn’t Mad Max, and zombies weren’t roaming the land. Even if this goes as bad as it can possibly go, things will be fine. Stuff like this is good once in a while- it shakes out the dead weight, and brings people back to fundamentals. Teaching amateurs that they are not “real estate investors” was an important lesson that needed to be taught. When you wish upon a star, you can’t get something for nothing. Most people are starting to understand this now.

Obviously truly disposable luxuries will get cut way back if everyone feels poor, but plenty of things won’t get cut much at all. Outside of that, anyone offering real value for money will do OK. If your margins are too fat, or your product is mediocre, you’re a dinosaur, and the asteroid just hit.

i’ll have my wife translate that later for me.

i think, to address part of your original question, would be to learn more aspects of the business to development of a product. while this may seem a pat answer, i see my role as a departmental ombudsman or mediary. sure, design is a large portion of what i do, but if i am able it intergrate among the rest of the departments, i have greater value. abilities to transcend and communicate along the process and departments ultimately caters to my role as a designer, which first and foremost is to solve problems.

i think if i am compartmentalized in my duties, i cannot react quick enough nor can i see the issues from other perspectives clearly.

value in your primary duties isn’t enough.

i believe if massive layoffs persis, my employer would expect me to do more with little assistance. i have to show that i can and will do that.

Excellent point. Make yourself indispensable, if you’re not already.


Manufacturing has been shutting down for years. It’s just that it’s hit a crisis point that folks outside of it are paying attention.

You just have to run lean & mean. Do more with less. & keep a good attitude.

I’m sure someone has said this much more eloquently than myself, but here it goes: Serve the government dollar. Find out where they’re spending it. Find out what’s required by regulation or law. And divine accordingly.

We’ve not seen any significant slowdown on programs serving tactical applications and ends. It’s not all we do, but it’s nice to have those types of projects in the pipeline. And we’ve historically strived to stay involved in as many different markets and industries as possible for just this reason. It requires that I have to make more cold calls than all get out, but it seems to be working thus far.

This is a time where many companies will fall but many others will rise to take their place. I think we are finally entering the 21st century. We were derailed for eight years by a bunch of war criminals who were puppets for big oil companies. Now we can get on track as a country and try to actually solve some problems we have had for years. Plenty of people harp about the stimulus package but thankfully the companies who are stoked are the solor and wind turbine manufacturers. They finally have an administration in office who’s answer is no longer “drill baby drill”. It will be the NEW ideas that drive a NEW economy. The old gods are dead. Gasoline is for suckers.

I want a windfarm on my roof. I want my siding to be made from solor panels. I WANT THAT CHEVY VOLT ALREADY! UGH! We need to make up for lost time folks. Some of the people who are best equipped to figure all this stuff out are the talented thinkers who post on these boards. Smart 21st century companies will understand the value of good design and good designers. Companies that cut out innovation and don’t take calculated risks will be the first ones down the drain.

I want to see solar and wind companies pull a higher profit than Exxon Mobil. This Not-so-great Depression will be totally worth it if that can be our future.

I’m with you!!! The technology has been around for the longest time & until now no one has really paid attention to folks trying to make it more mainstream, affordable & less like the “not so pretty” predecessors.

Some interesting advances have been made just in the past year or so. & now that it’s becoming more mainstream we are going to see some exciting new & innovative products coming in the near future.