ISSN: 1302-2636 | E-ISSN: 2757-668X
Critique of Industrial Design from Past to Present: An Overview [Tasarım Kuram]
Tasarım Kuram. 2022; 18(35): 206-222 | DOI: 10.14744/tasarimkuram.2022.22043

Critique of Industrial Design from Past to Present: An Overview

Merve Yavuz, Serkan Güneş
Department of Industrial Design, Gazi University, Ankara, Turkey

Although the industrial design is a relatively new profession, design activity itself precedes all other professions. The practice of making valuable objects is one of the main characteristics attributed to the human race. This immanent in human, utility-based practice has often been the target of Marxist criticism after it emerged as a commercial activity with the industrial revolution. The main criticisms targeting the industrial design are intrinsically directed towards the capitalist mode of production, which is the reason for the existence of the activity and the natural consequences of this mode of production. Surprisingly, these criticisms are neglected in the expectation of a unilateral benefit from industrial design, which can only be possible in a non-tradable design activity. The industrial designer is expected to neglect the requirements of mass production and serve only for the user’s benefit. After its institutionalization as a profession, industrial design justifies its existence as improving quality of daily life by creating machine-made objects that satisfy human needs and desires. Similarly, improving social welfare by throwing open objects accessible to everyone, which is only possible through industrial production that increases productivity and reduces costs, is one of the promises of modern capitalism. In the study, how the industrial design, whose raison d’être is to behoove people to raise the quality of life, is accused of hiding relations of production, indirectly ravaging nature through-provoking consumption by manipulating individuals in the way of serving capitalism is discussed in the context of developments in design history and its repercussions in critical theory. The critics are categorized into three historical processes: early modern period, modern period, and post-modern period. Literature is approached with a historical understanding by considering the social, cultural, economic, and scientific developments that affect the activity. The early modern period refers to the period in which discipline emerged as a commercial activity; the modern period refers to the period when activity is recognized as a profession. The post-modern period refers to the period after the paradigm shift in the field. It is possible to say that the critique of industrial design in its early modern period was generally oriented towards the social effects of the division of manual and mental labor under the influence of Marx’s theory of alienation and the dehumanized aesthetics of machine products. On the other hand, it is claimed that the plainness and functionalist forms caused by the mode of production bring class inequalities into view. According to critics, capitalists, realizing the tension created by machine production, first try to ornament mass-produced products to hide the production relations that become visible in consumer products. After a while, they create a new aesthetic approach claiming that function is a prime mover that determines the evolution of products. With the Bauhaus movement, in which cultural and historical elements are excluded from the product, and its function determines its aesthetics, industrial design activity takes its modern form. In the modern period, it is possible to say that the criticisms are mainly directed towards rationalism and positivism, which exclude human feelings, intuitions, and values in the design process. Within the scientific conceptualization of the world, the design is demystified, the designer is purged of intuitions and emotions, and the design process is reduced to a planned, directional, rational process. The endeavor of designers to make the design process systematic, scientific and predictable leads to reductionism. It eventuates in functionalism, in which human psychological needs are ignored at the expense of clarity and certainty. Finally, in the post-modern period, the view that a product should take form based on its function is replaced by that the product should take form based on how a user makes sense of it. By placing people at its center, the industrial design becomes prominent in the competition since it increases sales. Consequently, the knives are out for the profession, this time related to consumer manipulation. In the industrial design nomenclature, the prefix industrial, which refers to the dominant mode of capitalist production, creates tension in the values inherent in the design. This nomenclature defines the design’s position within the division of labor. Therefore, it gives the designer responsibility to optimize the benefits of the producer and consumer. It seems natural that the political economy thinkers, who are positioned outside the mainstream economic understanding, project entire critiques of capitalism to the industrial design profession, which seems to be at the exact center of the production and consumption relations. Nevertheless, industrial designers did not remain indifferent to all these criticisms and developed discourses such as green design, sustainable design, accessible design, social design, democratic design, universal design, participatory design. The study does not aim to confirm or refute the critics of industrial design but only to shed light on them in the historical conditions.

Keywords: Industrial design, critical theory, capitalism.

Geçmişten Günümüze Endüstriyel Tasarım Eleştirisine Genel Bir Bakış

Merve Yavuz, Serkan Güneş
Gazi Üniversitesi Mimarlık Fakültesi, Endüstriyel Tasarım Anabilim Dalı, Ankara, Türkiye

Endüstriyel tasarım, görece yeni bir meslek olsa da tasarım etkinliği belki diğer tüm meslekleri önceler. Hatta insan faydası için yararlı bir amaca hizmet edecek nesneler yapma pratiği insan ırkına atfedilen temel özelliklerden biridir. Bu insana içkin, fayda temelli pratiğin sanayi devrimi sonrası ticari bir etkinlik olarak ortaya çıkışıyla yoğun eleştirilerin hedefi olması, çoğunlukla Marksist eleştirel teoriye dayanır. Endüstriyel tasarım etkinliği meslek olarak kurumsallaşması ile kendi var oluş iddiasını, insan ihtiyaç ve isteklerini tatmin eden nesneler yaratarak yaşam kalitesini artırmak olarak ortaya koyar. Endüstriyel tasarım mesleğinin ortaya çıkış nedeni olan sanayi devriminin, üretim maliyetlerini azaltması ve üretimi artırması, böylece nesnelerin herkesçe erişilebilir hale gelmesi ile toplumsal refahın artması, benzer şekilde modern kapitalizmin de vaatlerinden biridir. Çalışmada var oluş nedeninin insan faydası olduğunu iddia eden endüstriyel tasarım disiplininin, nasıl olup da kapitalizme hizmet etme yolunda üretim ilişkilerini gizlemek, bireyleri manipüle ederek tüketimi tahrik etmek ve doğayı tahrip etmek gibi konularda suçlandığı, tasarım tarihindeki gelişmeler ve eleştirel teorideki yankıları bağlamında tartışılmıştır. Literatüre disipline etkiyen sosyal, kültürel, ekonomik ve bilimsel gelişmeler temel alınarak, tarihselci bir anlayış ile yaklaşılmış, eleştiriler söz konusu etmenlere bağlı olarak erken dönem, modern dönem ve post modern dönem olmak üzere üç tarihsel süreçte sınıflandırılmıştır. Erken dönem seri üretimin gündelik tüketim nesnelerinde yaygınlaştığı ve disiplinin ticari bir faaliyet olarak ortaya çıktığı dönemi, modern dönem modernizm etkisindeki etkinliğin meslek olarak tanındığı 1940 ve 1970’li yıllar arası dönemi, post-modern dönem ise modernizmin çözüldüğü, tasarım sürecinde insan faktörünün ön plana çıktığı dönemi ifade etmektedir.

Anahtar Kelimeler: Endü, striyel tasarım, eleştirel kuram, kapitalizm.

Merve Yavuz, Serkan Güneş. Critique of Industrial Design from Past to Present: An Overview. Tasarım Kuram. 2022; 18(35): 206-222

Corresponding Author: Merve Yavuz, Türkiye
Manuscript Language: Turkish
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