When will this design dictatorship ever end?

The principles of traditional industrial design are geared towards mass production. So that means making copies of the same product that all look roughly the same. Let’s take an example of cheap budget cars. Some brands and makes all look the same. The only difference is colour. People can easily stereotype the driver of that car based on its make and model. However, if that same make of the car had an option for the user to customise it, then people wouldn’t be stereotyping and generalising the driver based on the brand and make.

Basically, people are prone to generalisation, and the product or a brand that looks the same just helps people to create stereotypes around it! It seems that designer has the power to create this condition with just one design that can be mass produced. Isn’t that oppressive like dictatorship?

I understand that sometimes this rule does not apply to every product and brand. So in conclusion, are there any good examples of design personalisation in the market? Are there any signs of progress towards affordable goods that can be personalised to an extent?

Google Moto X comes to mind. Customizable down to the button color.

But how’s it selling compared to the Galaxy?

Not well…

I think the iPhone case market is a good example of personalisation. You have the generic expensive and hard to make core and then for often less than $20 you can encase it in a shell that speaks to your personality. In a more abstract sense I think Shapeways is another example, but 3-D modeling and design is still too complex for mainstream adoption.

As to your question about design dictatorship. I feel this is a side effect of the modernist movement. I admire them for stripping design down to its essential core, but with that mindset design can quickly become prescriptive. If you design the theoretical ideal of something that doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. That’s one of the things we are taught in design school, that there is no “average person” and we need to account for the whole spectrum of people. Obviously though custom designing your product for each person would be extremely labor intensive and costly. I feel what we have now with a couple different mass produced options is a good compromise.

For the normal consumer, choosing the product itself is in most cases all the personalisation he needs. Since he chooses that product out of countless alternatives.
Staying with the car example, you do have a lot of options to personalise a car. Color is the most obvious and it continues with interior options, body kits and all the extras.

One product I can think of, where the personalisation is highly regarded, are mountainbikes/downhill-bikes. some people could endlessly talk about what kind of gear they are using and how they gonna get this or that part next. And while it might seem that there is a lot of “tuning” involved, most of it is still personal taste, looks and brand.

I think the real dictatorship that you can find when you talk about the behavior of consumers, is retail. Most people frequent a handful of shops and they will buy one of the 3-5 product this shop will offer.
The progress I can see, is that more and more people are trying to find the perfect product for them over the internet, looking for a better fit than the normal store stuff and that is only possible because small companies/startups are offering these products on the net and people like it.

Probably when 3d printing becomes viable in a more local setting.
Torrented/online designs will open up a very large platform in what the average consumer is allowed to access.
In turn hopefully the retail market will become much more competitive and innovative in its market instead of suing it’s customers. (looking at you music industry)

I agree with JanD customization is usually through purchases, very few people try to post customize.

Teens customize all the time with stickers and cases. They are some of the most self expressive with their customizations.

Adults can add customization to their life in a (hopefully) more classy way by buying from smaller stores and shops. Online shopping makes this more accessible to people. But the style customization is made up of well designed smaller items that come together to make a whole unique individual style.
An example would be a businessman with a suit, tie, a sunnto watch, and handmade leather bag. A person’s style is not expressed solely by one item they purchase but a collection of their items and how they work together.

The aftermarket body parts market is alive and well. You can customize your car to the point that it is no longer recognizable as the car you started with. Those body kits that turn your Fiero into Lamborghini come to mind.

One company that has offered a lot of customization is Nike. http://store.nike.com/us/en_us/pw/mens-nikeid-basketball/1k9Z7puZ8r1
They let you customize colors. But as with most companies they don’t let you customize the form. There is too much tooling, supply chain, and process control in place to make a part even slightly different form.

boring yes, dictatorship, no.

A dictatorship is defined as an autocratic or authoritarian form of government in which a government is ruled by either an individual: a dictator, or an authoritarian party, as in an oligarchy.

Even as a metaphor, that term is way off the mark. What it is is capitalism mixed with the human pack based desire to conform to a large enough tribe for identification and perceived protection and security.

There is no big brother deciding what design is mass adopted and what isn’t. Of course marketing groups and PR firms try their hardest to influence purchasing behavior, at most this raises awareness of a particular item. But awareness does not equal adoption. Think of the Pontiac Aztek, hard to imagine a product with higher awareness and lower adoption. Even Porsche has very high awareness and moderate adoption… Toyota on the other other hand has both high awareness and high adoption.

Beyond awareness another limiting factor id distribution and availability. If a company can not manufacture a product fast enough or secure distribution through known channels that people purchase goods, the product will fail. Demand needs to be higher than supply, but if supply is too rarefied for too long a period, the product will either become a limited luxury good (in which case the design, materials, and branding need to support that position) or people will just move on. IE Xbox or PS4 being limited on Thanksgiving is one thing, but if it is still limited next summer, people will be frustrated and just move to the competitor.

The point is the power to decide what design is adopted lays not in the hands of a few designers, or even a few business people. The power lies in the mass or humans that make up the market. Some generalizations can be inferred but future returns can never fully be predicted on past performance.

Hi all

@ experiMental are you saying lets democratise design, and that all consumers are now the designers and that they have the ability, the skill and the vision to create and fulfil their own design needs without making a hames of it? mmmm do consumers know what they really want or will they know when they see it somewhere else by buying into a brand or design they can identify with …. Or are you just talking about minor customisation or small changes to an existing product.

I don’t think it’s a design dictatorship at all, designers should be paid to make the correct decisions, If cars are looking similar to each other well maybe that’s the management teams fault, don’t they get the main say in the direction and the manufacture of what is designed and released to the public. Maybe they like to play it safe so they sell an x amount of vehicles geared towards the largest audience or something. Someone mentioned 3D printed phone covers, yes, that’s a good example, I was actually viewing a competition this week. (another crowdsourcing website btw). People were submitting phone covers, well its was more like 2D artwork without any idea of how the phone cover would assembled and what material it would be made from…… and they are calling that a design revolution? Is that the future of design?

This! Exactly. It is not that anyone is forcing this kind of “compartmentalization” upon us. We happily put ourselves into those tight, categorized stereotypes. Voluntarily. The way we dress, the way we talk, the things we buy and also to some extend the way we think: All that is the product of where we see ourselves in a certain social group or society in general. That’s what we do. It’s kinda part of our nature. We are pack animals. There will be always some sort of “we” and “them”. No matter what. It can be about completely harmless things (Porsche vs. Hyundai; PS4 vs. Xbox One; iOs vs. Android…) or more serious issues (racism!). But you cannot switch it off. Even with your supposedly highly individual, fancy, 3D-printed iPhone case you did NOT create a stereotype-free product. You just put yourself into the “realm” of the DIY-social group. There is no such thing as a symbol-free product. Not because there is an inherent symbolism hardcoded to each and every of our belongings, but rather because we actively APPLY symbolism (which includes stereotypes) to them.

I would go so far as to even claim that “branding” is a concept “invented” by capitalism to react to that specific human nature of pack building.

Thus I think it is pointless to discuss that matter because it is us, not them. :wink:

Came in here to make this point. Whenever I see a customized car on the road I stereotype the driver (negative association from my perspective).

I would go so far as to even claim that “branding” is a concept “invented” by capitalism to react to that specific human nature of pack building.

Wouldn’t go that far, but it has certainly evolved into that. Pretty sure it started as a signature thing, like the name of the swordsmith.

you might want to check out this TED talk. There has been a lot of research done on the paradox of choice topic. I’m with you, I want a lot of choice, but remember, designers are not anywhere close to the average end user in their particular preferences.

http://www.ted.com/talks/sheena_iyengar_choosing_what_to_choose.html