Bart Nijssen

Photographer: Vincent van Gurp


We are currently experiencing an economic recession. Does this have consequences for our work as designers? Does it influence the products we design? Can we still carry on as we used to, or do we need to adapt to these new circumstances? During times of crisis, be it an economical downturn, ecological crisis or any kind of shortage, people usually come up with creative solutions for taking advantage of the situation. This idea can be encapsulated with the phrase: “Scarcity acts as a catalyst for creativity / innovation”. During the Great Depression, companies started to hire more and more designers. In the United States, they tried to make their products more aesthetically attractive in order to increase sales. In Europe, the focus shifted to more functional and efficient product design. Looking at the current situation, this research tries to find evidence and motivations for why certain design decisions were made for the products we use. Once we understand those decisions, we can comprehend the justification for the design. An investigation of how people perceive these objects is presented; revealing a clear set of indicators that explain why people value objects differently. Finally, I conclude this thesis with my manifesto, based on research into past examples and the analysis of current design and how users perceive it. I constantly strive to balance the 4 following principles: (I) Products should be functional, (II) Products should be manufactured efficiently, (III) Products should have no negative ecological / environmental impact and (IV) Products should be affordable for the people who need them. Four principles that are even more valid in times of crisis.

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