We’re culture that is always looking for that other message, always looking for that new arrangement.
Cloude Levi Strauss The Strange Mind
The last couple of weeks I spent on reading about brands and branding, about material culture and self-transformation. I have also visited NEVER FOR MONEY ALWAYS FOR LOVE exhibition and had a chance to listen to Bruce Duckworth’s lecture on packaging design. The lecture inspired me to go back to a series of interviews from Brand Thinking by Debbie Millman and Chief Culture Officer by Grant McCracken. I also went to London to see CONSUMPTION at the V&A. And, the whole thing in this post is an interesting mix of different aspects of our material culture.
Design has successfully established itself-so much so that it has become an and in itself, something more than just a tool to boost sales; rather, it creates “meaning” and becomes the actual purpose of buying. … Good designers must be part-sociologist or “social seismographers”: they must be in close contact with the needs, desires and fantasies of society. … but design can make important contributions to help change people’s mentalities. Design is linked to daily life, its gestures and objects-and this is precisely the terrain on which profound social changes operate. If, in the past, design has helped to circulate the consumerist lifestyle, it can now in turn prepare the minds to accept a less predatory relationship to our natural and social resources-a relationship where the physical appearance of objects is not continually offered up to value and money. At the same time it can contribute to a more playful relationship to life in which not everything must necessarily be seen under the angle of power, wealth or self-affirmation, and where ‘gift’, ‘sharing’, and ‘free’ are not empty words.
Design, the ultimate stage of capitalism? by Anselm Jappe, philosopher and essayist
20th century: smoke and mirrors, facades, brand and business are separate, opaque and secretive, advertising is communication, controlled and consistent…
21st century: the brand is a business, open and transparent, communication is everything, everything is communication, coherent, collaborative, brands are culture…
Design is the material culture of brands. Material culture reflects the things they value.
Some notes from Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits by Debbie Millman:
- branding is an experience; advertising is a temptation
- branding leads to ownership, one that has a touchy feeling to it; advertising is more distant, it offers promise, but it doesn’t give you a product
- design is a part that you pick up, the bit you touch, people have more relationship with brands
- branding is a replacement for religion, a process of self-discovery, a moral code you have to follow
from the interview with Bruce Duckworth
In Chief Culture Officer Grant McCracken said:
I think of brands as bundles of meaning and branding as a process of meaning manufacture and management. Branders find meaning in our culture and invest this meaning in brands.
CONSUMPTION, the fifth cycle of the Prix Pictet (the global award in photography and sustainability) at the V&A, London
We are all consumers. We have invented new forms of building, industrial production, farming and energy; we have emptied the seas and ravaged the land in our relentless drive to satisfy our unquenchable desires. We have at times sustained our appetites through the exploitation of the world’s poorest people. The consequences of our voracity are everywhere for us to see. We override the eternal cycle of the seasons to be sure to satisfy our daily cravings. Even our basic needs are now commoditised; we crave things we didn’t know we needed and which quickly become obsolete.
My favourite selection of photographs was scanned objects by a Chinese artist Hong Hao. For twelve years he’s been scanning objects he consumed. Hong Hao created a visual diary of things, a unique and personal inventory that attempts to question the culture of consumerism.