Relationship Between Design And Culture Cultural Studies Essay


It is perceived that currently, design and culture play a significant role in everyone’s thought processes. Economics, politics and technology are seen as the main factors which determine the dominant cultural patterns in modern society. It is taken to mean that these forces will constitute part of culture in modern society. Design is also formed and sustained by these forces. It is fair to say that, design and culture are interaction and interdependence. (Sparke, 2007)

This essay details the critical analysis of the argument put forward by Sparke and Gulier; pertinent to their views on the relationship between design and culture in modern society.

Assuming, as Sparke suggests that capitalism created mass production, which led to mass consumption, particularly in the United States and Western Europe, this form of economy made and makes many types of goods available to the general public. It is taking to mean that the cultural influence on the consumption. The essay begins by exploring these claims of Sparke, who ignores completely the USSR and the southern hemisphere; before narrowing the discussion and focusing on the consumer. This focus will take in chronological periods, analyzing design changes affecting tastes and tempering culture.

Main body

Design and mass culture

This section is to investigate the relationship between design and mass culture, from an especially examples to illustrate the design how to influence mass culture.

Like in Sparke’s book said that "while one facet of design in the post-second world war context was characterized by this exclusive, international, establishment-promoted 'high cultural' phenomenon which played a significant role within world trade, its other major manifestation in the period, which was equally dependent upon the role of mass communications media for its dissemination, was within the context of mass culture.’ As she point out that, during the postwar years US economic present in Europe and has influence on European production and consumption. After that, in spite of US culture has infiltrated Western Europe, however as a result the commercial emphasis moved firmly into the sphere of electric and electronic goods. The emergence of this phenomenon was increased in general wealth and a healthier balance. Vespa motor-scooter was a prime example has reflected that products’ meanings can change as they become appropriated by different cultural groups.

It is clearly apparent that design and culture have always been closely interrelated, and belonging to part of cultural context of the society. Design has become the embodiment of a larger process of creative ‘culture-mongering’ that has become a means to capture ideation, innovation and enterprise and made to stand for cultural identity. Mass media became a significant factor in modern society, such as advertising, TV, magazine. It has influenced on design tidal current, consumers’ required and mass culture. As Sparke point out the ‘admass’ society had appropriated design as one of its major communicative forces. Consumers required have easily changed by mass media; however consumers need has influenced on design. As a result, mass media has become a main force in society.

Japanese anime was a prime instance to demonstrate that mass communications media accompanying design and mass culture change. Back to 12 century, Japanese cartoons were experimenting with animation. Previously, serial newspaper comics have been creative and has influenced by the western world. These evolved into full length manga. The first worldwide animation success was Momotaro. Several short films and shows followed, but anime and manga fans everywhere really owe their thanks to one man: Osamu Tezuka. (Zagzoug, 2001) After that, since the success of the animated series Pokemon in the late nineties, Japanese animation has been enjoying greater popularity and recognition in America.

The major difference between Japanese anime and America cartoon was unlike American cartoon which were only watched by kids. The audience for Japanese animation was not only for kids also for teens and adults. At that period, this massive mass communication media influence the design, mass culture, production and mass consumption. In other hand, as the third industry, anime has braced the whole literature market, and also has promoted the economic development. It is now displayed more and more significant role in many fields. More and more people became the anime fan, they made ​​up to look like characters in the anime, buy a variety of products that about animation. In 2008, Doraemon was appointed as "Cartoon Ambassador", the main purpose of the appointment is to have an aid of Doraemon deeply rooted charm and popularity advantage publicity Japanese cartoon culture that to become worldwide cartoon industry. Japanese anime has no longer simply been a normal mass media, but also has been a vehicle of spreading culture.Image: Masahiko Komura, Doraemon, Nobita

Source: Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, left, shakes hands with comic book character Doraemon, a robotic cat, as fellow character Nobita, right, looks on after Komura named Doraemon Japan's first anime ambassador on Wednesday, 2008, Itsuo Inouye/AP

By the late 1960s, Japanese anime culture has infiltrate America. Tetsuwan Atom, Naruto and Hello Kitty as them were known in the US. As a result, years later they became a pioneer in anime, and were the man responsible for the success of anime and manga worldwide. Japanese has started have an influence on United States television and animation shows and has become very increasingly popular. These characters have become a trademark in the United States and have targeted not just for kids, teen and adults as well. As people from other countries begin to watch anime, even many people have also started to study the culture of Japanese anime and Japanese culture. Japan has influenced America's animated movies and comics, so much so that Americans often watch subtitled anime from Japan.

From above it can been seen that ‘admass’ has become a new mainstream social groups; they lead design trend and promote the spreading of the advanced culture.

Design , culture and consumption

This section will discuss the relationship between design, culture and consumption. Consumption has as a media between design and culture, influence on both.

In Western Europe, "consumption" it seems to be taken for granted that culture forms. Especially, in the last quarter of the sixteenth century, a spectacular consumer boom occurred. The noblemen of Elizabethan England began to spend with a new enthusiasm, on a new scale. In the process they dramatically transformed their world of goods and the nature of western world. Accompanying changes of cultural has been followed. (McGracken,G; 1988) After that, there was a huge cultural change from 1700-1920s of mass production, and 1920s to now of mass consumption. Mass production includes materials and technology, manufacturing systems, marketing, advertising, product positioning and distribution. Consumption includes demography, social relations, taste, cultural geography, ethnography and psychological response.(Julier, 2000) These aspects have influence on design and culture.

In Julier’s book said that "First, consumption is the exercise of taste as a part a self-identifying act. Secondly, consumption entails an exercise of private, personal choice within the market. Thirdly, if consuming involves making choices, then consumer culture is identified as a culture of freedom and individualism. Fourthly, consumer culture is founded on the constant expansion of demand. Fifthly, in this post-traditional society, consumption becomes the leading device through which individuals construct their identities. Finally, consumer culture incorporates virulent mechanisms for the production and representation of commodities as signs."

The above summery involve the relationship between culture and consumption. This section will analyse the basis of these consequences. As the improvement of people’s life, the demand of quality has reached a highly height. People’s needs, income and taste have changed with the cultural meaning. Consumption played a crucial role in this relationship which has affect economic, technology even the politics as well. Consumption has been a vehicle of design and culture. As a result, between design and culture was formed a relation to influence and to condition each other. Consumption has become an invisible force, influencing culture and design, promoting social development and change. Many factors of instability in the modern society, consumer culture have become a mainstream cultural influence people’s life.

In fact according to research, there was an increasing interest in the cultural aspects of consumption. In the late modern society, people’s life was no longer on the most basic needs, culture and consumption was no longer only connected to basic needs as well. To a growing degree, consumption stands out as existential in the sense that it was being used by citizens to signalise identity, attachment and lifestyle. (NTNU,2000 ) The design of products was not only about use, but also about taste and cultural competence as well, design might be influence by consumers need.

Consumers use meaning of consumer goods to express cultural categories and principles, cultivate ideals, create and sustain lifestyle, lead culture and design change, and create social change. There is a picture to show that the fundamental relationship between consumer and culture.

Source: relationship between consumer and culture, 2010

It is clearly apparent that consumer is the lead factor in this circular relationship; and promoting the development of social civilisation. Consumer’s attention and income has influenced product/brand trend. Companies follow consumer’s need to change their design style. Consequently, it would be changed culture. Consumer, culture, product/brand and company are in an interdependently relationship.

From another perspective, the income for consumers is a significant factor. Income determines how much people can buy and therefore whether they can afford to do the things.

Consumer Buyer Process


There is another picture to show that what consumer required in modern society. It is clearly demonstrated that marketing inputs and psychological inputs were the major factor that can influence consumer required. In the market, what kind of product, where to purchase, promotion of strategy and the price of the product; these elements have been considered. The psychology of each individual considers the product or service on offer in relation to their own culture, attitude, previous learning, and personal perception. Different cultural backgrounds, people's values got ​​extremely different. Trends in the market will be influenced by the values ​​of people. For example, Americans want to get the maximum personal freedom, pursue advancing pleasure, when people purchase a home, car, they can extension of hire purchase and also get a bank loan to pay these payments. In China, people would like to save money to buy things, people purchase goods often limited within the scope of the monetary ability.

As a consequently, as Julier notes that, consumption is an essential process of cultural. If the consumption include market selection, then the consumer culture as a part culture of freedom and individualism. Consumer culture built on consumer demand regardless of expansion.


Design and culture have always been closely interrelated and interactional. In this report it has demonstrated the relationship between design and culture, what kinds of factor has influenced on design and culture.

During the postwar, society culture has been changed obviously. Mass media become a mainstream culture in society culture. A group called ‘admass’ had appropriated design as one of its major communicative forces. Mass communications media for its dissemination, was within the context of mass culture. For example, Japanese anime culture with its very characteristic of mass culture has influence on American cartoon culture, and has been a vehicle of spreading culture.

Capitalism creates mass production, which led to mass consumption, particularly in the United States and Western Europe. Consumption played a significant role in this relationship which has affect economic, technology even the politics as well. Consumption has been a vehicle of design and culture. In other hand, consumers required has influence design, peoples’ individual considers the product or service on offer in relation to their own culture, attitude, previous learning, and personal perception has decided the direction of design.


Inouye, I. 2008. Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, left, shakes hands with comic book character Doraemon, a robotic cat, as fellow character Nobita, right, looks on after Komura named Doraemon Japan's first anime ambassador on Wednesday

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McCracken, G. 1998. Culture & Consumption. America Bloomington

NTNU. 2000. Design, Consumption and Culture

Sparke, P. 2007. An Introduction to Design and Culture. Routledge

USD. 2010. Consumption Studies.\

Zagzoug, M. 2001. The History of Anime & Manga.