Social consciousness and design

Larger shifts in social consciousness can pose a threat to established products and offer a chance for new product concepts. The green movement, the emerging consciousness of our environment, is a long-term influcence which in the nineteen-nineties gave way to concepts such as Body Shop, in the early 2000’s supported the emergence of organic and fairtrade food, and  in the twenty-tens leads to the popular adoption of Veganism. It also changed corporate communication strategies: Petrochemical company BP, for instance, changed their corporate identity from a shield to a sunflower in order to communicate an image of environmental consciousness.

Shifts in the fabric of societies also gives way to new product categories. For instance, the growing number of single households in the nineteen-nineties gave rise to the new category of convenience  food. In the nineteen-nineties, convenience food was frozen food to be microwaved. Combined with a new awareness for organic ingredients and freshness, convenience in the 2010’s led to delivery services for meal kits and the success of all-in-one guided kitchen machines such as the Thermomix.

Shifts in the understanding of oneself in a society finally give way to a new understanding of consumption as self-actualization, boosting the consumption of designer fashion and interiors as expression of individuality and as signs of belonging to a social group.

If no products are offered which tap into these shifts in social consciousness, consumers also recontextualize objects and brands to fit to them. For instance, in the late nineteen-sixties, cars such as the Citroen 2CV and the Volkswagen Beetle have been adapted by the 68´ generation as their own. The original intent behind the design of these cars was very different. The 2CV was designed to be a cheap car for rural France and the French territories, while the VW Beetle (“Volkswagen” is German for “people’s car”) was designed for Hitler’s “KdF” car program. Coincidentially, both cars had features which attracted the 68′ generation: Their affordable price, their small scale and their design, defined by round shapes, made them stand out on American streets full of large sedans.