Consuming Consumerism

Design Culture and Theory

onsumerism demands a focus on design. Whether the design approach appeals to pathos, such as the article Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things, or ethos, like the article Commerce, Consumerism and Design (1997), catering to consumers attention better, promotes the cycle of consumerism.

The emotional weight of a design may be more critical to a product’s success, according to Donald A. Norman. By experiencing any emotion with a desired object, a cognitive method of understanding the appearance, effectiveness, and rationalization is perceived(4). In the article, Norman defines “the tilting pot”, designed by the German firm Ronnefeldt, which considered stages of tea brewing. In order to distinguish usability, aesthetics, and practicality, the stages use both knowledge in the world and knowledge in the head to guide a user in the right direction, in this case, which teapot to use.

To clearly illustrate the thought process of brewing Tea, the following mind mapping demonstrates the number of characteristics/emotions that a person may have.

Question: How might someone decide on having Tea? Created with “Miro” by Alex Kmieciak and I

This notion can be applied to a digital experience as well. In order to understand how a user might move through a website, illustrating a mind map implies Human Computer Interaction based research. The trickle effect Norman suggests eludes to cognitive reflection through emotions rather than raising the level of manufacturing and design.

Looking through the lens of design and consumption, the portrayal to capitalize on growing the public’s interest in contemporary design has been professionalized since the early 1920s. Johnathan M. Woodham briefly summarizes the impact of consumerism on society.

A style such as Art Deco in the 1920s was an avant-garde approach that soon became universal in art works, architecture, entertainment, home furnishing and books, such as The Great Gatsby. The impact of products that appropriated and smoothed the edges for the consumer class underlined a persona. Ultimately, suggesting consumption of particular products eludes to a specific lifestyle (you might get invited to Gatsby’s party).

Furthermore, Woodham reflects the increasing demand for consumer goods during the industrial revolution. The article refers to the real-life Tony Stark, Raymond Loewy as a distinct figure in relation to the era.

The influence Loewy had brought work for citizens to create objects that are in his words: “MAYA” (most advanced, yet acceptable). Giving users the most advanced but not more advanced than what they were able to accept and embrace is similar to digital designing with HCI. The end goal is to ensure that the product or service is easy to learn, effective to use, and enjoyable from the user’s perspective.

What qualifies as consumers “pattern of taste” can be similar in both readings. The underlying thought process of having to purchase a good based on external properties can qualify an emotional object. However, what contrasts the theories is a form of manipulation and responsibility. Norman finds a responsibility to correct himself in the text by addressing his book The Design of Everyday Things is fixated on function. Therefore, the value of emotion is in itself an avant-garde approach that influences an ongoing development of consumerism. There are products that suggest an emotional attachment that serve consumers appeal and more mass market products that fit a norm.


Has technological objects/products shifted the need for ornaments such as a teapot?

With the increase of online shopping, how has media influenced this change in consumerism?

Works Cited

Norman, Dolan. “Three Teapots.” Emotional Design: Why We Love (Or Hate) Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books, 2004. 1 – 33.

Woodham, Jonathan M. “Twentieth-Century Design”, 1997. Chapter 3.

INTD. Digital Experience Design Student — communicating design. ig: @thanushascomicbook