Sunday, February 28, 2010

The things we think we want to know

"I'm looking back. I'm looking down a road of narrow beginnings and infinite ends. Traveling with them, through time."

In the late 1920's, consumers dubbed the term Fordism. This represented a seed of belief and change. The Ford Motor Company strictly adhered to their industrial design and continuity. Ford said, "The way to make automobiles is to make one automobile like another automobile, to make them all alike, to make them come from the factory all alike, just like one pin is like another when it comes from a pin factory."
Around the time of Fordism, America began to isolate themselves with regard to design, culture, and social conflict. This tremendously effected advertising and product development. As more Americans bought Ford cars, they became integrated into leisure and work activities. Thus the perception of luxury was used by General Motors (GM) to capitalize on the competition's uniformity. They did this by distinguishing their vehicles with colored enamels and new elements of machinery. The changes "rarely required significant engineering changes or substantial capital investments"; in a nutshell, they weren't really better. Through market research GM also learned, this mode of production would increase novelty and consumer appeal.

Here we see the industrial appeal of planned obsolescence, and the strategy of novelty. Originally, there was a societal concern for the consumer, since this industrial revelation was so valuable. It was even called consumer manipulation, but business owners quickly found an exception to the rule. The exception was called "the new 'consumer ethic'". This was the cycle of justified manipulation based on job production. The automobile companies were cautious at first, and they hired consultant industrial designers to mediate aesthetic ideals, commercial success, and social responsibility.

Fast forward 2010: We still see the outmodes and experience the discomfort of knowing that we don't have the newer model car. We still buy into novelty, and the implanted "novelty" of every product.
We feel this because of advertising and ,though some of us are keen enough to see it, we choose to feel this way.
I'll show you what I mean:
Below is an old school GM refrigerator ad outlining the benefits and product attributes. These are all physical advantages to the product. Next to it is a fairly recent ad from LG. Here they give us, not only, a visual for the physical advantages, but also give their perceptual two cents with the couple dancing at the beach.
So, through the evolution of this consumer ethic we are shown to be concerned with the color, its functions, and its ability to change who we are? Advertisers treat our discomfort of wanting with a convincing answer. In my opinion, the only way to preserve a consumer ethic is to stick to physical advantages of products, and leave the perceptions alone.
The perceptual implication of this ad is that, with this fridge, your life will be more glamorous and intimate. Isn't this is just a place to store our food? We want to believe that products will fulfill us and quench our thirst for intimacy, but its such a lie. Jesus knew that. He saw the void and said:
"If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water... Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life." John 4:10-14
So this is with advertising:
When we convey perceptions as truths, we perpetuate truths out of our own invention, for our own intentions and continue the cycle of dissatisfaction. Eerily, people start to look like the automobile: One like another until they're all the same, but selling some through novelty of pick-a-mix fullfillments.
*reference taken from History of Modern Design

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