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How do designers respond to changing social and cultural context in the styling of their products?

Andrew Muir Wood , James Moultrie , Claudia Eckert

Many goods are purchased based on emotional decisions, not just rational decisions relating to function and performance. A key aspect of this emotional response is that products should have an up-to-date contemporary form. Consumers don’t necessarily know what they will desire in the future, so how do designers account for the changing social and cultural context in which their products will be perceived? A literature review found there to be six categories that contribute to a product’s context: other products, technology, commercial activity, socio-economics, people and media; and these factors have differing lifespans and amount of influence. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with ten British creative professionals from a variety of design disciplines to talk about their work, and the external factors that influence the form of their products. The interviews helped to validate and develop the literature understanding and produced some emerging theories about the contextual content of different products.


context, trends, product design