Interior and environmental design
Mass production is the process in which products are created using production lines to produce large quantities.
“Adam smith had made this point [that hand made products were not “economically viable”] in the late eighteenth century ... in the industry of pin manufacture... one man working alone might be able to make twenty pins a day, Ten men working together dividing the work into separate tasks, could make a staggering 48,000 pins a day” (Whiteread, R)
William Morris was against the production of products of a mass scale. He believed that products should be produced from localized materials, creating quality handmade items. He wanted to create products that lasted the test of time.
Henry Ford led the way in mass production in the 1890’s, creating the model T car.
“The model T was one of the first platform-based products ever produced in quantity and one of the most efficiently designed” (Alizon, F. 2009.)
Henry Ford was the ‘fuel’ that started mass production on large scale taking production methods and practice from the meat packing industries and developing them into skills to be translated into the “automotive industry”. He is the “father of mass production” (Alizon, F. 2009).
Statue of Adam Smith, Scottish economist, author of The Wealth of Nations.
Detroit, 1908, Henry Fords Model T was launched. The Model T was successful for its high performance and for being surprisingly inexpensive. The Model T became the U.K’s first affordable car, which was very popular in its time. Detroit’s wealth grew due to the success of the motor industry, all thanks to Henry Ford and the Ford factory. This industrial era was soon known as “fordism”
Production lines are what make mass production work. Instead of having individuals working as a team with no structure, production lines were created, where each individual worked on few specific tasks. The process is then repeated so that on each stage of the production the product becomes more and more complete. Thus creating quality products as each worker will be a fantastic ‘cog’ in the production line. Obviously, the more the worker produces, the more skilled he becomes.
When Henry Ford opened his factory, he needed trained, specialized workers. Ford needed them to be focused on their job within the production line. He expected these workers to learn quickly. “Anyone who was not able to perform his tasks within this period was fired.” (Quispel, C) Each man was had to do his job perfectly, in an orderly way so that the production line could run smoothly. The employment was very strict and had to be controlled.
I found it quite interesting though that in 1916, Ford commissioned social workers/ psychologists to assess that his workers “had the right morals, did not drink and had a stable family life.” (Quispel, C) It’s interesting because he obviously needed to find out if his workers had any factors outside the factory that would affect the cars they produced. If their minds weren’t completely focused on their role in the production line, accidents could occur in the development of their task. This would create the start of a weakened pattern starting to form in his cars through the production lines, potentially creating risk to the consumers. William Morris would find this attitude abhorrent.
Henry Ford and the Model T
Mass production and furniture design go hand in hand. For example the work of American husband and wife designers, Charles and Ray Eames who use, cheap laminated plywood, being bent and shaped into frames for chairs and things revolutionized our lives today, by creating cheap products. Stores like Ikea have made it easy for everyone to have well designed stylish furniture in your home no matter what your budget. It is this consumer led attitude which causes the most problems in our society today.
Furniture, electrical goods... are so cheap to buy these days. If your microwave breaks you are more likely to go out and buy a new one, than have it repaired. Advertisement draws us in and make us want to go out and spend our money. This then puts pressure on the factories and companies to develop with newer products and to produce these on a mass scale, using as cheap resources as possible to gain maximum profit.
“Generally speaking, electronic products tend to have limited lives.” (Boradkar, P)
This throwaway society creates huge pressures on landfill sites and the environment. The constant throwing away and buying of products is a giant cycle which is all caused by the mass production, of products.
“We cannot conceive how to serve the consumer unless we make for hum something that as far as we can provide will last forever. It does not please us to have a buyer’s car wear out or become obsolete. We want the man who buys one of our products never to have to buy another. We never make an improvement that renders any previous model obsolete.”- Henry Ford (Boradkar, P)
This is a refreshing quote from Henry Ford; one might expect his philosophy to encourage the regular replacement of goods as they wear out.
Planned obsolescence is when a product has a ‘sell by date’. Basically it isn’t made to last very long, the parts and materials used to create the product are cheaply sourced and are likely to fall apart. It’s this Planned obsolescence that drives our throwaway society today. It’s how companies make money.
New products are always being developed, for example the Apple Ipod. A new version of the Ipod is launched practically every couple of months creating a surge of trendy teenagers and adults running out and buying a new one. Seduced by aesthetics, new gadgets and ‘hooks’, people get excited and succeed in fuelling throwaway society. Birthdays, Christmas’s are driven by materialism. We all want the latest and greatest fads, thinking it will make us more attractive, better people.
Today most of our products we find in the supermarket and stores, come from abroad, bananas from Ecuador, Toys and trainers from China. It’s hard to find a product on the shelves that hasn’t clocked up the air miles. Mass production in places like China, South America and India have created an almost ‘slave labour’ force, many workers are young children. Mass production has become like a modern day slave trade, all so that we can have products which are slightly cheaper. I am not against modern day mass production but I am against the age of the workforce and the conditions they work in.
Boradkar, P. (2010) Designing things, Chapter 7 ‘planned obsolescence: unsustainable consumption
Parry, Moss. (1989) William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement, London: Studio Editions.
Fabrice, Alizon. (2009)Design Studies 30, Henry Ford and the Model T
Quispel, Chris. (Unknown), Built environment VOL 31 NO3, Detroit, city of cars, city of music
Whiteread, Rachel, history of mass production, http://www.infobritain.co.uk/mass_production.htm
Images sourced from google images. http://www.google.co.uk/