10 Ideas that Changed the way I think about Design

Anna Yu
5 min readDec 5, 2020


A Design History Reflection Essay

The concepts that we have reviewed during our class es have always been familiar to me, but they have never been something that I considered applying to my own design, or even design in general. These 10 concepts have considerably changed my perspective on design in the world or even clarified the reasons for how products are designed.

(in no particular order)

1) Historicism

Historicism is a trend that I see most obviously in trends in fashion. There are a few trends that often rotate in and out of popularity, comically enough for them to be able to be tracked and thus placed in a chart(such as the image I have attached below). These trends, though, often assert a theme, of sorts, that many will then follow, allowing the current design to confine itself to those boundaries.

Trends for fashion items coming back

2) Mass Production

Mass production is one of the terms that I have never considered to apply to design. After being educated on its influence, I see mass production affecting many products to be compromised of quality and material for the sake of the production scale. This has created a substandard environment for both the customers and the labor workers involved, and I heavily advocate for this reform.

Factory workers mass-producing a product

3) Ideal Form

Ideal form applies to the pursuit of the quintessential. The concept there would hypothetically be something that an “ultimate design solution” motivates many to constantly improve the design, but the often-changing world around us continues to expand the scope past our skill. This motivates me to continue to grow as the market changes and desires different things.

A teapot’s design has been minimally changed over the years

4) Forced Obsolescence

One question that always racked my brain was why have there been so many different trends over time? For the pursuit of design, the goal has been the same: to create something to improve the customer’s lifestyle, as well as remain aesthetically pleasing(subjectively). The concept of forced obsolescence more or less answers this question, the continuous desire to make more and more “modern” products to increase and maintain customer interest. Thus, conforming to modernity.

Car design over the years

5) Form Follows Function

Practicality. This catchphrase perfectly entails lots of more modern design, where the function has been prioritized and form simply falls into place afterward. Items created for the purpose of utility and people who value their durability define this movement of design. This allowed me to consider how many designs can be created in a small spectrum of usability.

Bauhaus designs- form follows function

6) Corporate Identity

Branding and logo design has exponentially increased in importance over the years, an increase of desire for easy identification of companies based on their logo. This resulted in a set of rules for this realm of design: easily reproducible, scalable, and unique to an audience. I’m excited to work with this in the future and consider the specific elements that go into creating an identity.

A progression of company identities through the years

7) Brand Characters

Brand characters allow for a brand to be more desirable, as it evokes compassion and relevance to their audience. The mascots allow for the company to create a more dedicated fanbase and apply it to a less professional, more fun-loving audience. These characters have made me desire a brand all the more since I was young have created a long-lasting impression.

Tony the tiger

8) Standardization

Standardization has somewhat limited design and designers. The importance of creating a product that could be easily replicated and appeal to the majority of the population became a common practice. The bell curve was more centralized, and variation was restricted, though this has ensured consistent quality products at a lower price. I want to further consider how this will affect me in my professional career, and what limitations will be put in place.

Standardization eliminated option fatigue

9) Division of Labor

The division of labor was groundbreaking at the time. Though it is such an obvious concept now, the division of labor allowed for household items so much more accessible and allowed the design of items to be focused on elements past its previous limitations(being manufacturing time). This allows me to consider my work and the separation of it among my classmates(or future coworkers), and how manufacturing can be optimized humanely!

Division of labor, everyone has their job

10) Clenched Fist

Last but not least, the clenched fist is such a common theme in everything around us. It symbolizes resistance, strength, and power, and is seen in advertisements, propaganda, even music albums. This has been utilized in revolutionary movements, such as women’s rights and black lives matter. This theme has been around me all my life and I had not realized it, but I am excited to see where it arises in the future(and what cause it may be backing).

Album art for Green Day