Perspective (Not the literal one)

What is Industrial Design doing to the world’s (Or America’s at least, for the sake of this argument) perspective on key elements of life?

This came at me while watching a Best Buy commercial. You may have seen them, they have sales clerks telling stories of their customers. This one happened to be the sales clerk wanted to see the face of the man when he walked in the house and had an explosion of happiness over a 50inch plasma.

At first they seemed contrived to me… but I suddenly realized. Hell, if I walked into my room right now and saw a 50 inch plasma just for me, I’d be head over heels. I would actually be happy over a piece of glass, silicon, and molded plastic. Not something I made, just something that creates a feeling of enjoyment.

So is design, which one would might say is making people fall in love with objects, destroying our psyches or just giving us a different means of expressing love, care, whatever you want to call it. We rely so much on objects, that we actually feel a need for them. Imagine yourself suddenly stripped of all technology. Would you be able to get by?

Are we causing people to rely on technology too much? For that matter, is that even a bad thing?

Just something to think about.

A few different thoughts there.

The first idea you bring up digs into the very essence of Industrial Design. Designing experiences. Discovering (sometimes by accident) a consumers wants and needs. Why people love their cars, I remember a professor telling us he used to ‘pet’ his VW, and didn’t know why. He admitted he was in love with the car. The design in its entirety, all its forms and features harmoniously working together to create this experience for him.

I saw the commercial too- and I believe it was a 60" they were discussing, ridiculous, eh?

That’s besides the point though.

I was just thinking about the whole big screen TV thing after I saw that commercial (on my friend’s big screen TV… purchased from Best Buy, imagine that)

The big screen TV, sure it’s a nice(r) way to enjoy movies, television, all that. But in my opinion, it falls into the ‘big 3’ category of 'The Jones’s"

  1. who has the bigger house
  2. who has the nicer car
  3. who has the biggest/nicest tv
    The big screen TV has become a status symbol, or a sense of success. Not a good or bad thing, though I’d argue bad. What I’m getting at- is maybe its not us designers, or design, that is altering everything here. Specific cultures can also stimulate an object or technology, raising the mark while watching the Jones’s. If they have it, I want it too type of thing.

Thinking out loud, take care

Check out Normans ‘Emotional Design’. Does a decent job describing how we ‘connect’ to certain products due to design.

This is a very good thing to reflect upon often, further still to consider being stripped of everything. It puts many things in perspective.

Commercials such as these shape our society’s perception of happiness, it’s one of the many ways capitalism sustains itself. This topic goes quite deep and very broad, I think i’ll leave it there.

I lived without TV for a whole year - I didn’t miss it, certainly not the adverts.
As a designer, I’d love to separate myself from the marketeers who convince people that they have to aspire to want crap to fill their meaningless lives, I’d love to stop marketeers using absolutely empty USP’s that they paste all over their packaging (I saw a radio the other day and one of the USP’s was ‘looks as good as it sounds,’ the radio looked awful). I’d love to tell women that the $1,000+ they spend on beauty products each year won’t really help because the people they aspire to look like, don’t actually look like that, they’ve been photoshopped. But if I did all of these things (and more) and it worked, what would become of me the Designer?

What is Industrial Design doing to the world’s (Or America’s at least, for the sake of this argument) perspective on key elements of life?

Industrial design cannot exist on it’s own, it’s woven into so many other disciplines that all rely on one another. We often pander to marketeers creating lots of stuff no one needs and in reverse, we often put a face on an amazing piece of engineering that would get lost without our help.

Are we causing people to rely on technology too much? For that matter, is that even a bad thing?

‘We’ in the designer sense are not necessarily in the driving seat. The problem is humans have an inbuilt desire to continually make things easier for themselves - we’re getting so good at it, that we are becoming lazy, once we’ve stepped forward we never want to go back - Imagine building the pyramids by hand again. So our (human) progress is almost inevitable, whether designers exist or not. This of course only applies to 1st world countries. Doesn’t it seem bizarre that we debate the effect technology is having on us, when there are people in this world, who don’t even have electricity. I struggle with the effect design has on society and the environment daily, but what right have I to dictate what people should and shouldn’t do?

No life is meaningless, however it comes down to people believing these things bring happiness, now, is it the marketeers fault for making them believe so, or the consumer’s for not knowing what makes them happy? I think both.

I totally agree about the frivolous USP’s, in many cases they don’t tout the quality of the product, but put up a defense that it doesn’t totally suck.

I may have gone over the top on the ‘meaningless’ bit, it’s not the marketeers fault, it’s no one’s fault, they’re just doing their job - (we live in a blame society where everyones quick to point the finger without taking responsibility… another time, another post). However I think what marketeers do so cleverly is introduce the element of doubt. You may think your happy, but unless you own this item, you’ll never truly be happy, your life is meaningless until you buy product X, $9.99 with free beer cooler.

There’s lots of ways marketing creates desire and you’re right, preying on people’s insecurities is certainly one way to do that. But I think there’s a difference in products that make life easier vs. make life better. For example a more reliable vehicle vs. a bigger TV.

Funny thing about Plasmas/LCDs though, it’s not really the size, but the resolution that counts.

You can buy a 60" flat screen, but you can’t find 6 good programs to watch.
You can buy a $10,000 sound system, but try finding 10 good radio stations.
You can buy a 100K Porsche, but try finding 10 miles of pavement without traffic or congestion.

It’s not the gadgets, its the infrastructure and “software”. Imagine a car sales ad with a brand new sports car sitting in mid-town traffic. When upgraded my TV, my first buzz-kill was realizing that I was now watching the same crappy programs in larger, more vibrant color!

im a dreamer, and ridiculed for it…

i take interest in aliens and spaceships… lol… but it kinda makes sense. as a designer (god of junk), i can see what we as humans could become to be rid of ourselves of what kills us (ex booze and smokes).
if we could have endless food for all, live with zero pollution (perpetual healthy environment), and do what we want all day; would life be perfect? would you want to acquire more junk? if you had a spaceship, you could wander for ever…
what we do now as the human race is work for money, our work generates money, then we spend it, keeping the unfortunate human circle of life going. what if we had a new system of life that didn’t include money, and was replaced by the need to survive and become more intelligent to do so.

then we might be out of a job… lol.

again, i am thinking out loud, take caution.

what if we had a new system of life that didn’t include money, and was replaced by the need to survive and become more intelligent to do so.

then we might be out of a job… lol.

If money didn’t exist then being out of a job shouldn’t be a problem. I’m sure most people on these boards will admit that money isn’t the reason they do what they do anyway.

It was talked about briefly in another topic somewhere but what you mentioned reminds me of the Venus Project. They argue that we have the technology and resources today to live in a resource based society with no money. With technology wiping out the need for the mundane tasks and humans’ being inspired to do certain jobs (doctors, engineers etc.) by a satisfaction in advancing humanity and giving as opposed to money.

It’s slightly utopian, unrealistic and would take a major crash in society for anyone to consider such a radical re-design but it’s still nice to dream and discuss. It’s difficult to get your head around and fathom a society not dependent on a monetary system since it’s such a strong part of who we are, what we live for and how we live are lives for such a long time.


Back to television. During the time in my life I’ve lived without TV I really haven’t missed it. I’m living at home at the moment and my parents have a huge 42’'. It was bought on the cheap just before plasma’s became affordable, so it’s one of those that take up a huge corner of the room. It’s a small house and when it’s on it demands attention, blaring at you, broadcasting crap, it’s hard to escape. It can consume a few hours of your day without you even relising, often I’ve found myself having to question what the hell I’m doing watching the rubbish that I find myself unfortunately watching. And now people mount them on the walls, above the fireplace, like a shrine… So yeh, I’m not a fan of TV.

What I find interesting is how socially retarded some people find you if you confess you don’t own a TV. Raising children without a TV is a commonly debated issue with a large proportion of people being strongly against it. It’s crazy how dependent we have come on this source of entertainment. ‘The business of boredom.’

Not sure how endless food and zero pollution relates to the desire for objects.


Money has nothing to do with it. Money is simply a value system. It shows what we as a society place value on and how one object or service relates to another in terms of value. You choose what to spend your money on and we as a society set the values through the free market system.

Don’t believe it? Look at baseball cards. Baseball cards have an intrinsic value in terms of material, manufacturing, distribution and retail costs of lets say about $.05. They all cost about the same to make, yet their value is not the same. Society sets the price depending on a array of factors, and that value shits from person to person. To me, they are worthless, to someone else, a treasure to behold.

If, as a society, we decide baseball cards are worthless, than there value could actually be less than their intrinsic cost of manufacture. This is the situation the big 3 is in right now. Society has decided that the value of their vehicles is less than what it costs to make them. That is called going out of business.

All of the objects and business that are commonly talked about as being “bad” would not exist if we as a society decided to not spend our money on them. By spending money on things we say are “bad”, we are saying we actually value “bad” things.

Another great example is organic food. 10 years ago rumblings of organic food and food co-ops popped up. Over time more people have chosen to put value on organic food. Now Whole Foods stretches coast to coast, most urban centers have their own organic food stores, and even the big box super markets have large organic sections.

Money is not inherently good or bad, its in how we educate ourselves to use it to show value.

I much prefer an imperfect system in which the people get to decide what has value and what we want, then a system in which a small group of people choose what is “right” to be manufactured and distributed. I think most of the 20th century was spent showing that didn’t work.

There might be a better system to define value, but I haven’t seen it.

Objects CAN make people happy. Simple as that. Everyone has some sort of favorite object that makes them happy when they use it. Perhaps its your ipod, or a favorite pair of shoes, or a simple piece of home decor. Surrounding yourself with objects that stimulate your pleasure center is not a bad thing. Can I live without my ipod, my laptop or my plasma TV? Sure. Of course. Do I WANT to? HELL NO!!!

How much information did you pull from Google last year? Remember when the internet didn’t exsist? Technology and innovation should be cherished and fought for. They will not exsist however unless someone gets PAID to create them. (This is America dammit)

As far as people who are always so beaming proud of not owning a TV, Shut up already. I’m tired of hearing how above society you are because you deprive yourself of another information tool. Why not give up radio, newspapers and books too? Maybe you should ditch your computers since you can’t find good enough web sites. Give me a break. Watch the Discovery channel. Learn some manufacturing techniques with “How its Made”. Watch the “Current” channel. Watch replays of “Planet Earth”. Its amazing… Especially on a 60" plasma!!!

Clearly you value information and learning, all of these things you mention can be used as tools to get information and knowledge. However, not everyone who owns a TV uses it for that purpose and I don’t think that those that don’t own a TV think they’re above society. Is it so amazing to not own a TV by conscious choice? That’s how much the acceptable norm it is, to a point where people see no happier alternative than sitting on their ass watching 6 hours a night. Like I said, tools, it’s what you use them for, not what someone else markets them to you for, that is the conscious choice.

I wouldn’t call not owning a TV amazing or totally odd. However, anyone I’ve ever met who doesn’t own one makes a huge effort to let everyone know it. I don’t really get it. I like TV. Especially when its 3 degrees outside!

I also like football and I’m not about to watch the Superbowl on youtube.
Its 2009. Go Hi-Def.