PART 1: HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
An invention was started since at the prehistoric human communities whereby it begin during the Stone Age which we all know it consist of three period that are the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic. During that time, they all started to think on how they can still survive to continue their life without help from any technology. How could they hunting to get food without provide any hunting tools? Because of the pressure of life and recessive situation, they stated to think on how to make their life become more comfortable, with the aid of hunting weapons and they started making their own cloth from animal skin and tree bark for shelter purposes. Based on this situation and phenomenon, we already knew there was an invention was created from our ancestors for long time ago even though there still have no technology facilities provided at that time.
FIGURE 1: Artifacts found from Middle Paleolithic Age (include recreation of face of neanderthal, spear heads)
The picture above showed some of the Stone Age artifacts during Paleolithic age whereby it is evidence on people at that time had start to make an invention on hunting tools for them to make sure they still survive.
Based on the writer point of view, an invention is an activity which involved of critical thinking in order to solve or caters a particular problem which commonly related to our human daily life. Basically, inventions often extend the boundaries of human knowledge or experience. An invention is a process of creating something new whereby there was no other person has created before that particular period. It usually derived from a pre-existing model or idea, or it could be independently conceived in which case it may be a radical breakthrough. An invention usually was not perfect and it can be conceptual out of reality of certain period. An invention will offer another opportunity to other inventor to enhance and improvement on that particular idea due to the changes of the human behavior, mentality, the way human react to their daily life and the most important is the rapid changes of the technology todays. When there was something new which immerge from the first invention it considered as innovation.
In order to show the correlation of the invention during the Stone Age until todays, the writer will touch the story of the invention process starting at the Baroque period. During Baroque period we can see that there was so many invention related to architectural pattern whereby at that time all of it was served for religious purposes. There was so many beautiful ornamentation and sculpture surrounded at the wall of the church to show the creativity and intelligent of the artist and the designer at that time. Until after French Revolution, the demand of the new creation and invention was so impressed and get highly attention from the society at that time and it can be considered as the golden period of design when people stating to appreciate the design and it is a race begin to explode. Even for the war, there was so many new inventions by the designer and the thinker was came out in order to make the process of the war ran smooth and efficiently. For example, the new invention of the transportation system which has been used during World War such as tankers, jet fighter, and cars. The invention also can be considered as a benchmark or trendsetter of that particular generation or society because it’s involved the usage of the technology of certain period and the creativity on how they experiment the material which available at that time.
FIGURE 2: Dr.(h.c.) Ferdinand Porsche FIGURE 3: The First Volkswagen Beetle Type 1
The picture above showed Dr.(h.c.) Ferdinand Porsche (left) a person who are responsible to the new invention of the first Volkswagen Beetle Type 1 which have been used by the NAZI as mode of transportation during World War 2.
Based on Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, invention means an invented fact believed to be true because of its appearance in print and a briefly stated and usually trivial fact.
1: discovery, finding
2: productive imagination: inventiveness
3 : something invented: as (1) : a product of the imagination; especially : a false conception (2) : a device, contrivance, or process originated after study and experiment b : a short keyboard composition featuring two- or three-part counterpoint
4: the act or process of inventing
For the writer and also as an Industrial Designers, an invention is a process of creating something new which involve the process of critical thinking through an experiment in order to come out with the new product or solution to the particular problem that faced by the human daily life. An invention is something new that never been done by anybody before. An invention is a process, not a formula. It’s allowed logic but is open to those unexpected discoveries that come from experimentation and from making connection between seemingly disconnected ideas. When we talk about the invention, scholar often comes with different idea and quote such as:
“O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention”. William Shakespeare
“Necessity... the mother of invention”. Plato
“There are events which are so great that if a writer has participated in them his obligation is to write truly rather than assume the presumption of altering them with invention”. Ernest Hemingway
“Television is like the invention of indoor plumbing. It didn't change people's habits. It just kept them inside the house”. Alfred Hitchcock
“Doubt is the father of invention”. Ambrose Bierce
“Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance”.Ambrose Bierce
The pure invention basically was not perfect and there have a gap that needs to feel by the next person who also acts as a thinker or designer. An invention offer another person to enhance or improve the first concept of the invention due to the different technology, material and also technic or approach that has been used before. When the new concept or ideation has come out until it produces a new product, it considered as an innovation whereby the improvement from the previous product or creation for better purposes. Based from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Innovation means:
1: the introduction of something new
2: a new idea, method, or device: novelty
The action or process of innovating.
[Count noun] a new method, idea, product, etc.:technological innovations designed to save energy
As an Industrial Designers, the writer defined the meaning of innovation is something new in terms of the usage of the material, the application of the latest technology, the variety of material usage and the application or the usage of the product itself based on the first creation or invention of the products due to rapid changes of human daily life trend and the development of the technology. An innovation usually offered more than one usage of the product. It basically the improvement of the design itself either the functionality of the product based from the first invention. An innovation usually offered more than one application of the product itself and it gives variety of application mode to the user. Innovation is channeling creativity so as to produce ideas or products that people can and wish to use. Innovation is essentially novel, practically applicable and introduced to the market. Thus innovation may be seen as equal to invention plus exploitation. For the example, the invention of telephone by Alexander Graham bell in 1876 is pure new invention of telecommunication products. The telephone evolved and the new innovation of telephone transform to Smartphone as today such as I-phone from apple as renowned as leader of innovative Smartphone.
However, the main issues that the writer want to discuss and emphasize here is whether the progressive obselence can be considered as transformation of invention to innovation or it is just another method/ approach of design process that averts the evolution of design in industrial sector?
Before the writer start to explain more in depth regarding on the topic that have been mentioned above, let we see the meaning of each of the sentences below:
PROGRESSIVE: of, relating to, or characterized by progress,
OBSELLENCE: the process of becoming obsolete or the condition of being nearly obsolete <the gradual obsolescence of machinery> <reduced to obsolescence>
AVERTS: to turn away or aside (as the eyes) in avoidance
THE: used as a function word to indicate that a following noun or noun equivalent is definite or
has been previously specified by context or by circumstance <put the cat out>
EVOLUTION: one of a set of prescribed movements/ a process of change in a certain direction
OF: used as a function word to indicate a point of reckoning
DESIGN: to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan
Progressive Obselence by Alfred Pritchard Sloan, former president and chairman of General Motors
In order to understand the whole idea of the issues that want to be discussed here, let the writers explain the real meaning of the word “Progressive Obselence”. Progressive Obselence is the term which has been introduced by the former president and chairman of General Motors, Alfred Pritchard Sloan in 1950 in industrial sector which at that time was implemented during the first Ford car manufactured. The meaning of the term “Progressive Obselence” can be described as “throw away culture” or “constantly change” which the objective or the story behind this philosophy was Alfred Pritchard Sloan want get the profit of its car design from the consumer by design the body kit of the first model-T Ford that was easily out dated so that the consumer will change their car to the new/ latest one parallel to the evolution and the development of the socio-economy at that time.
FIGURE 4: an advertisement of Ford Model T promotion (left), meanwhile the process of progressive Obselence on the Model T.
Before the writer start explain more in depth regarding the term Progressive Obselence, he would like to explain the condition/ situation of the society and the status of the economic sector especially the rise of the new invention and conception of the new product after the French Revolution. After French Revolution, American governments try to boost up the economy, mentality and spiritual of the American people whereby most of them were felt give up and dull due to some of their family members was involved in warfare. So, the government had set up an exposition so called New York World’s fair in 1939 – 1940 by the slogan was “Dawn of a New Day”.
New York World’s Fair (1939 – 1940)
The objective of the fair was to bring all the people at that time to think for the future. By conduct this event; the government could attract all walks of life of the American people to come together to the fair and all the designers, scientist, scholars and also manufacturer to change their idea and sharing information due to promote their product and technology to the world. At this time, there were so many inventions and new idea of design and technology was introduced especially to attract the middle-class as a target user. For example the bulb technology was invented by Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor, scientist, and businessman is one of the invention that was display at that time.
FIGURE 5: Overview of New York World's Fair, 1939
The idea of this Progressive Obselence was immerged after the French Revolution when there was a highly demand on the design technology, pattern, the exposure on the new findings of material and the various of product design was introduced to the society at the New York World’s Fair 1939. Other than that in order cater the problem related to the time constraint of the new product development and the competition from other company makes the developer take for granted on using the ready-made product as a basis for the new image for the future product which more emphasized on stylization. So, from there the marketing people from General Motor realized that this is a big chance/ opportunity for them to persuade the consumer’s mentality to buy their product and to imagine a good life of the future by promoted it through mass media such as advertisement and the image of the prominent model that have a good life which can influenced the consumer’s mentality. From there Sloan has succeeded poisoning the mentality of the people at that time to buy his product even though the product does not exist yet. So, basically what have been done by Sloan on his car manufacture such as Ford Model T was they still kept the original design of that particular model and just change the design of the body kit and the accessories so the consumer will feel need to change.
In order to prove that this concept of Prgressive Obsellence cannot be accepted by all people, the writers will put together the story of Hippies group which opposed the idea of this Progressive Obsellence. During the concept of Progressive Obsellence was flourish in America, the group of Hippies was very angry and toward the changes that has been made by the General Motor due to the overwhelming modernization of the industry sector which give an effect to the human life. Because of there are too many modernization and less of privacy and harmony of life, the Hippies group make a decision to protest and boycott from buying the product that related to the modernization and make a decision to go out from this modernization and starting to leave in organic house and also caravan.
FORD CAR MANUFACTURER
The first Model T was introduced
The Ford Model T (colloquially known as the Tin Lizzie, Flivver, T‑Model Ford, or T) is an automobile that was produced by Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company from 1908 through 1927. The Model T set 1908 as the historic year that the automobile became popular. It is generally regarded as the first affordable automobile, the car that opened travel to the common middle-class American; some of this was because of Ford's innovations, including assembly line production instead of individual hand crafting. The first production Model T was produced on August 12, 1908and left the factory on September 27, 1908, at the Piquette Plant in Detroit, Michigan. On May 26, 1927, Henry Ford watched the 15 millionth Model T Ford roll off the assembly line at his factory in Highland Park, Michigan. The Model T was the first automobile mass produced on assembly lines with completely interchangeable parts, marketed to the middle class
There were several cars produced or prototyped by Henry Ford from the founding of the company in 1903 until the Model T came along. Although he started with the Model A, there were not 19 production models (A through T); some were only prototypes. The production model immediately before the Model T was the Model S, an upgraded version of the company's largest success to that point, the Model N. The follow-up was the Ford Model A and not the Model U. Company publicity said this was because the new car was such a departure from the old that Henry wanted to start all over again with the letter A. As it happens, the first Plymouth car (1928), built by competitor Chrysler Corporation, was named Model U.
FORD UNDER THE CONCEPT OF PROGRESSIVE OBSELLENCE
Based on the earlier explanation of the concept of Progressive Obsellence by the writers, it has been proven that Ford was implemented that concept into its Cadillac model as shown as pictures below.
FIGURE 7: The process of stylization on the Cadillac model by FORD
Based on the picture above, it showed that the element of tailfin on each of the Cadillac model was implemented and this element was get a highly supported from the consumer at that time and it has been a remarkable design on that era.
1959 Cadillac Eldorado
For the 1959 model year Cadillac produced a total of 142,272 cars. 1959 therefore was Cadillac’s third-best year in the 50‘s. The 1959 Eldorado incorporated totally new styling: large tailfins, twin bullet taillamps, two distinctive rooflines and roof pillar configurations, new jewel-like grille patterns and matching deck latch lid beauty panels personified these cars. They reflected the innocence, unsophisticated excitement and self-satisfaction of America during that era. They were Rock ’n’ Roll, outer Space and color TV – wrapped up in chrome and sheet metal with wide whitewall tires. And then those fins, the most popular ones in Automotive history. The design was 100% Cadillac but the company contracted out the assembly to Pinin Farina of Italy, with whom the division has had a long-running relationship, and these Eldorados were essentially hand-built in Italy. Their discreet, narrow taillights, nicely integrated into modest tailfins, contrasted sharply with the "rocketship" taillights and massive fins of the standard 1959 Cadillacs and were an indication of where Caddy styling would go in the next few years. However, build quality was not nearly to the standard of the Detroit hand-built 1957–1958s, and the 1959–1960 Broughams are less desirable, it seems, than the 1st generation Broughams, although their value and collectibility remain high.
FIGURE 8: Eldorado was a model built by Cadillac from 1953 to 2002.
FIGURE 9: The Model of Cadillac Eldorado Get Influenced From P38 War Plane design Which Has Been Used During World War 2
FIGURE 10: An advertisement of Cadillac Eldorado by Ford
Based on the picture above, poster or an advertisement is the main tools to create a certain value that makes the consumer to buy a car. Usually the image that appeared on the advertisement was correlated to each other and always represents the comfortable and luxurious elements such as a beautiful lady or housewives, a man wearing a smart coat with the assistant was opened the door for the master. The idea of this luxurious image is purpose to establish a good branding that can persuade people to buy that certain product.
The conclusion from the Progressive Obsellence concept is the writer was not agreed toward the concept that was practiced by this General Motor former president and chairman because it have ran out from the reality of the process of design which has been practiced by all industrial sector. Based from the history of Ford Model T manufacture, we can see that Sloan just only emphasized on stylization of that model without change the entire model of the first edition of Ford car and he has poisoned the mentality of the consumer by said that there was a new car by offered “fake image” to the consumer. Other than that, the concept of Progressive Obsellence has disregard the whole process of design which started from an ideation, idea development, ergonomic factor, anthropometric data, research and development, market testing and lastly come out with full scale prototypes. By follow the proper design approach, it will create a successful design in term of a good response from the user or public.
PART 2: CONTEMPORARY PERSPECTIVE
In this modern era, there still have a several company or industrial sector which have done/ implement the same procedure of design flow that has been practiced by General Motor. Undoubtedly even in our own country, some of the design company has practiced the same way of design process based on Progressive Obsellence oriented in Malaysia. One of the companies was PERODUA, Malaysia local car manufacturer. For the writer also as an Industrial Designer, he has no intention to humiliate his own local car manufacturer, but he just want to express his regret towards the working concept that has been practiced by this company. For instance, the writers choose PERODUA MYvi as an example of Progressive Obsellence oriented. Before the writer explain more in depth regarding on this issue, he would like to brief the background or detail of PRODUA MYVi.
PERODUA MYVI under philosophy of Progressive Obsellence
The Perodua Myvi is a supermini/subcompact hatchback manufactured by Malaysian car maker Perodua since 2005. Based on the second generation Daihatsu Sirion/Boon and Toyota Passo, the Myvi is the result of Perodua's collaboration with both Toyota and Daihatsu. The Myvi is the best selling car for 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 in Malaysia.
The first model of PERODUA MYVI year 2005
PERODUA MYVI 2006: Change the design of the front hood
PERODUA MYVI 2007: The development on the front and rear bumper design.
PERODUA MYVI 2008:
PERODUA MYVI 2009: Change of front spotlight design.
PERODUA MYVI 2010:
PERODUA MYVI 2011: totally change the body kit for 2011 design but keep the basic chasis
Based on the collection picture of PERODUA MYVI above, we can see how the changes of the design of each model based on the Progressive Obsellence oriented in our own local car manufacturer. Undoubtedly, the PERODUA still keep the main chassis of the car obviously and just only do a little bit stylization on the exterior design of that particular model. Since 2005 the first introductions of the PERODUA MYVI until today, the design still the same and just only undergo the process of stylization. The question is until when this our own local car manufacturer want to keep the same image of this model and how long they want to practice this method of design approach for the further development? Where is the intellectual, innovative and the creativity of our local car designers? From the writer’s point of view, if our local car manufacturer or any local company especially design firm still practice this design approach or still remain to the same method, our local car design and any product design will not rapidly expand our design industry same level as international standard. The concept of Progressive Obsellence also can be considered as a crime toward the evolution of design process because it has taken for granted of the whole design process and most disappointed was it cheated the consumer by setup or programmed the consumer’s mind by showed a “new fake” image of the product even though it was the same product.
PART 3: CONCLUSION
Based on research that has been made through historical trace and the analytical thinking towards today scenario, the writer can conclude that:
- The benefit of Progressive Obselence in industrial sector especially in car manufacture was it reduces the cost of tooling and skillful labor cost. Thus, its lead to mass manufacturer product to become much cheaper and much more people can afford it. Its also open the job opportunity
- But, if it’s only based on the profit reason trough constant repetition of one particular product, it’s unacceptable. It’s kill the evolution of the design process and offer “fake new” images to the people. If this culture being practice to all the industry, the designer will never improve and explore. There is no pure new invention and design in industry and no freedom in exploration. It’s stop and kill the ability and creativity of the designer.
Also, the concept of Progressive Obsellence has much more negative impact than positive. The total objectives on the profit as a main target in Progressive Obsellence often bring dissatisfaction to customer as well as poor design and quality. Improvement on cosmetics in design is not appropriate espeaciallly on constant one particular design. How long can the product can be recycle is the issues. Its stop the design process and the design culture itself.