Enough of taste and mastication. It is time to look beyond the momentary, tasteful consumption of designed objects, in order to make account of the various meanings that are generated through their more drawn-out engagements. It seems to us that the discourses around consumption that have abounded in Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences in the last 40 years have simultaneously limited their focus on one aspect of our reltionship with designed objects, services, images &c., & confused such a limited focus with all characteristics of this relationship: the term “consumption” seems to refer to everything from desire through acquisition to use. Under the auspices of discourses of consumption, objects, once consumed, are destined only for the rubbish tip. Is there any wonder that consumer culture is one that prioritizes taste & waste. The long, alimentary process in-between seems to be largely forgotten. We will offer a furthering of the biological metaphor beyond the mouth—the site of consumption—by stating that after the initial burst of taste that consuming designed objects gives, there is a more prolonged digestion. Digestion takes time; it breaks down the thing(s) digested & thus broken, the digested bits are used by our systems in various ways. In this paper we will focus on this process, in order to outline the beginnings of a theory of digestion; an outline that is based-upon an analysis of the rituals, practices & other experiences that people have with designed objects. It is important for us that such an account is not merely reflective & analytical of the culture in which design operates. Once we have articulated this theory of digestion, it is our intention to use it to generate real design outcomes in a commercial setting. The move from, & relationship between, the theoretical/analytical & the creative/synthetic is an important one.
Keywords: Consumer Culture, Design Theory, Design Practice, Rituals, User Practices
Dr. Jamie Brassett
Senior Lecturer, Programme Leader Contextual Studies, BA (Hons.) Product Design
Director, Tin Horse Design Ltd.