You may not know about Brooks Stevens, and today is his birthday.
Clifford Brooks Stevens, born June 7, 1911, was an American industrial designer of home furnishings, appliances, automobiles and motorcycles— as well as a graphic designer and stylist. At the time of his death, he was considered “a major force in industrial design.”
If Google was to do a custom sketch for his birthday, it would probably be the widely recognized Oscar Mayer “Wienermobile” or the Harley-Davidson motorcycles body he designed in the 60s (production of new bikes are still based on Stevens’ body designs).
But how many will reference a topic sure to light a fuse in any frugal consumer? Planned Obsolescence.
While Brooks is credited for all this previous innovation, he is also cited with inventing the concept of planned obsolescence. He coined the term and defined it as “instilling in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary.”
Obviously, there is some debate over his role in what became a controversial business practice. Rather than artificially shortening product lifecycle, in favor of manufacturers, Brooks Stevens’ view was not to create poor products that would need replacing. His vision was to always design the next product a little sleeker, shinier, or better so that the customer would want something new.
In fact, Apple has become known for excelling in this area with their iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
Obsolescence, however, is a driving force in modern economy. Today, it isn’t even just about designing something sleeker and sexier. Modern technology continues to advance and evolve so fast, that in order to stay competitive, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) commit significant resources to innovations that keep their customers cutting edge and competitive.
With this in mind, it isn’t realistic that any OEMs could support every product they’ve ever released, indefinitely. Even without Brooks highlighting the human desire to have something a little newer, and a little better… probably sooner than really necessary.
Happy birthday, to a man of innovation!
Kaye & The GDCA Team