One of our central goals for this course is developing an aesthetic approach to things. Recently, aesthetics has been entering into the whole world of consumer goods in a new and powerful way. The competition between manufacturers and retailers of items offered for popular consumption has become keen. Quality and price have evened out to such an extent that what Virginia Postrel has called “look and feel” is the only thing that will make one product stand out over against another. Bob Lutz of General Motors has even gone so far as to say that today’s auto business is the art business. The miraculous comeback of GM in the auto business has been due mainly to their exciting new designs. And then, of course, there is Apple. One reason the Apple Corporation today is one of the largest in the world is because Steve Jobs saw to it that excellence of design was combined with the highest manufacturing and merchandising quality. This week, we are focusing on the value of design in the domestic arts.
In preparation for the assignment, visit the kitchen section of several of the following commercial Web sites:
(Feel free to add one or two of your own favorite shopping sites as well.) Take careful notice of the aesthetic design of kitchenware, appliances, and tableware. Consider, in addition, the design of the Web sites themselves and the unique style in which each presents available products. How does the experience of online shopping compare aesthetically with that of visiting the household department of a brick-and-mortar store?
For this assignment, write a paper that explores the effects of design in contemporary society. Your comments and thoughts should deal with the question of whether it is good for business to pay attention to style and aesthetics. Consider the following questions:
- What are retailers trying to accomplish by hiring big-name designers?
- Will shoppers prefer products that are well designed to those that are not?
- Would you rather shop for household products online or in a physical store?
- What was Steve Jobs after when he worked with designers to create new looks in computers and mobile devices?
- You might also consider automobile design. Would you say most car buyers select an automobile based on its mechanical features or its styling?
- Where else do you see design playing out in corporate America?
Refer to the Commercial Design Scoring Guide (linked in the Resources) for more information.