Constellation 2/8 – Consumerism & Design

In our second constellation lecture we looked at the rise of consumerism in our economy. Essentially this was a transitional period between things being bought purely for a practical need to the rise of things being bought out of desire. During the 1920’s products such as the automobile had reached a point where production was catching up and quickly overtaking demand. Production had become more efficient making cars cheaper and the more affluent population had purchased as many as were needed. This meant a change in tactics by producers. Style was now a consideration, where as with the first cars such as the Ford Model T which was famously ‘availabe in an colour s long as it’s black’ new models of automobile being produced in all manor of colours.



In the 1920’s streamlining and efficiency were the big new thing with innovations for vehicles. This was the age of the Zepplin for example. Huge innovations were on people’s minds.

These innovations were entirely practical but quickly began to be utilised for stylistic purposes. The world was in awe of the new and therefore consumer goods were designed accordingly. Where as before they’d been wholly practical as competition was limited, supply and demand were no longer even and innovation to outpace competitors was vital.

The main takeaway from this lecture for me was that as the world became more industrial and wealthier, consumerism was inevitable. With more innovation comes opportunities for wealth which create consumer demand which in turn creates a market for goods.For the pace of this process to be maintained more must be sold than that which fulfils basic needs. Wants must be fostered in the consumer mind. Over the past century designers and producers have worked towards new ways of convincing people to buy things they don’t necessarily need and to dispose of them to make way for more things. The cycle has self perpetuated exponentially leading to the present day.  Wealth creates wealth.

The overarching message of this course so far seems to be the question of what to do about consumerism? There’s no doubt it’s brought us numerous advances in every aspect of life, but it can only continue to the extent that there are resources to feed the machinery of progress. As designers, can we help lessen the consumption and waste in a cohesive manner.




Author: David Rothwell

I am a Graphic Communication student at Cardiff Metropolitan School of Art and Design If you like any of my work, have feedback (good or bad) or would like to get in touch, please do

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