Tiffany M. Rodgers
Although the revolutionary system of planned obsolescence is meant to stimulate demand and sales, its wasteful modern-day results damage the intellectual progress of the society by misleading consumers, manipulating the population’s view of real modern advancements and the reality of the production process, allowing industrial designers to become progressively unproductive and uneconomical. Planned obsolescence, present in industrial design, is a policy of deliberately planning and manufacturing a product with a limited useful life so that after a certain period of time or wear it becomes obsolete or nonfunctional. Planned obsolescence is applied globally in every area of design and production. It is a tool used by companies to meet objectives and increase profit. Deriving from an economy depressed America, planned obsolescence has undoubtedly become the traditional norm of society. Over the course of the twentieth century planned obsolescence has become an essential factor of production. Industrial design as a profession began in America during the 1930s which became possible as a result of applied styling and planned obsolescence. Associated originally with advertising and the development of consumer culture in America, the movement’s purpose was directed towards America buying its own way out of a deepening depression. Automotive company General Motors led the way by initiating annual design styles that included slight technical updates. As the trend spread to all means of production in the 1950s the ever present mode of built-in obsolescence became clearly known. Perhaps firstly recognized by its current label, a 1955 Business Weekly edition referenced to the movement as a permanent edition to America’s culture; “planned obsolescence is here to stay in the auto industry and it is moving into more and more fields”(Harmer). Fashion, music, décor, architecture, educational tools and techniques, film, emerging technologies, and even food became products of planned obsolescence. The concept of seasonal trends is solely a result of this transition. . As the presence of planned obsolescence became overtly obvious along with psychological and cultural trends of the 1970s, awareness sprouted the beginnings of negative overviews regarding the phenomenon. Environmental concerns were front running issues. Planned obsolescence persisted throughout the 1980s and 1990s as popularized and widely available technological advances continued down a fast paced route. However the OPEC oil crisis kept the environmental movement influential. Global-minded cognizance led to the examination of industrial design and production where social and environmental irresponsibility were found and scrutinized. Victor Papanek wrote the book ‘Design for the Real World’ in 1985, the same year of the oil crisis, in which he accusing industries of “creating whole new species of permanent garbage to clutter up the landscape, and by choosing materials and processes that pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink, designers have become a dangerous breed” (Harmer). As a designer himself he criticized the discipline as a whole; “When we design and plan things to be discarded we exercise insufficient care in design, in considering safety factors, or thinking about worker/user alienation from ephemeral trivia.” (Harmer) The majority of modern day consumers have not experience a market unaffected by planned obsolescence. However, as a result of a recessive economy purchasers have become more educated, aware, and selective. The desire for durable, lasting, safe and healthy products has risen within a country torn by financial, environmental, and wartime impasse. This knowledgeable consciousness has formed new trends within production. Revolutions that still involve planned obsolescence but whose purposes are geared, once again, towards accelerating the economy with the consumers’ actual...
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