Designing to Consume

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Designing to Consume

O, wonder!

How many worldly goods are there here!

How beauteous commodities are! O brave new world

That has such consumers in't!

Miranda Postmodern

Consumerism is a social and economical form of behavior that is manifested in the chronic purchase of desired goods and services, with little attention paid to their true need, durability, product origin or the environmental consequences of manufacture and disposal. Although consumption takes place in all human cultures, it is only in the recent times that it has become a foundation, rather than an epiphenomenal characteristic of society. We live in a time where "luxuries" have become "decencies", and "decencies" have become "necessities" (Peter Corrigan, 1997, p2). It is easier said than done, to draw a fine line ones needs and wants.

This essay deals with the way that design can be made to encourage and maintain consumer behavior. It would deal specifically with the way that the interior of a nightclub can be conceived to encourage clients to linger inside the space for longer. However before going into detail it is necessary to look briefly at the emergence of consumerism.

During the nineteenth century after the industrial revolution was the period when some of the early departmental stores were founded. Le Bon Marche is sometimes considered as the first department store in the world, and was founded in Paris in 1838. The interior of this department store, as well as some of the others were organized in such a way to magnetize clientele into the store, make them hang around for longer and in return purchase further items. During this period, it was considered as a woman's job to shop, and hence the interior of the store was made to look very feminine. In an effort to make it seem like a home away from home, some stores integrated a tea shop with comfortable seating. This may have encouraged women to linger in the store for a longer period of time, or perhaps make an outing of it by bringing her friends along as well. This goes to show that consumerism took place even during this period and that the interior designing had an imperative function in making the customer consume extra.

It can easily be said that one of the main reasons that make people consume today is to attain social honour, social prestige and social status which is ultimately seen as a reflection of wealth. The possession of wealth can grant one social currency that is more prestigious than mere dollars (Peter Corrigan, 1997, p 21). In order to demonstrate that wealth for others to see and admire, people buy expensive new clothes, extravagant meals, fancy cars and exotic holidays. According to Veblen, certain sort of activities, food, clothes or drink, are reserved for conspicuous consuming classes. Conspicuous consumption of goods is an ideal way of showing ones status and ability to pay, to those who know nothing about them apart from what they see (Peter Corrigan, 1997, p 17). This is purely known as first impression, and can speak volumes about an individual. For instance, the working class may be able to play a sport like soccer, but polo may be financially beyond their means. Thus if one saw an individual playing a sport like polo, one could say he is wealthy or has a high status.

However do people only consume to maintain social relationships? Another increasingly common reason for consumerism is based on the self reward system, where the individual would consume merely to reward himself at the end of a long, stressful and productive day. It is so common for critics to make an object say a range of things about a person who possesses them: stupid, greedy, hyper materialistic, status hungry, uncultured or unthinking. But why can't one purchase an up-to-date and expensive item just for joy and to have good times. (Kim Humphrey, 2010, p16)

Case study #1

This is an image of Sirocco bar and lounge in Bangkok. The bar is lit us with LED lights which continuously change colour, grabbing the attention of the customers, and making it hard to miss. The bar is also slightly elevated and right at the rear end of the area, overlooking the city, as it is approximately about 55 storey's high. The rest of the atmosphere is also important as the aim is to make clients desire to linger. A very cozy ambience with soft lights and fresh open air also plays a vital function, making people relax and hang around more, which will in turn increase the revenue of the bar.

Case study #2

Another example where design is used to enhance consumerism is in the Night club, Sanctuary. As the bar is the foremost unit of consumerism in a bar or night club, its location is exceptionally vital. It should either be placed right at the entrance or some where central and easily accesses able. The bar could slightly be elevated or well lit up, like in this case, where the bar and the staircase are lit up in the same manner.

Design solution

In a nightclub, both the types of consumerism can be noted as some may consume to maintain social relationships and some consume in order to reward them selves. However in order to make the clients consume, some tactics have been applied in my design.

The site of this nightclub is at the Singapore cricket club which is opposite the old Supreme Court at City Hall. The major night life, Boat Quay and Clarke Quay, are not excessively far from this site. The cricket club is considered to be a old mans club, where many of the members are elderly folk. However the incorporation of the nightclub into this site will help in increasing the number of young members of the club. To be a member or to be associated to such a club also indicates that the client is wealthy and can afford to spend in order to have a good time. This in turn speaks volumes about the nightclub, and many individuals may want to be associated with it.

It is essential to understand the reason people come to night clubs in order to design one successfully. In order to collect this data several surveys have been carried out which clearly indicate that people come to relax after a busy and hectic day of work, to hang around or catch up with friends and merely to enjoy the alcohol and music. Whilst carrying out these surveys, it was brought to my attention that the circulation in some clubs was very poor as the client would have to pass through a crowded dance floor to get to the VIP seating area. Another fact that was notices was the poor seating facilities. Even though it is a night club, at some point of time the customer would like to have a seat. Due to this lack of seating it may lead to the client getting fed up and perhaps leaving sooner that what could have been with better seating. The third issue was that the dance floor and the seating areas were located side by side making it very deafening and hard to have a conversation.

Keeping these issues in mind I have designed the nightclub such that, these troubles will not be faced again. The bar is centrally located on the mezzanine level and can be viewed from all around. The VIP seating is located on the first storey and has a direct like to the bar, which is two meters below. The general seating area is located on the same floor as the bar. The dance floor is situated in the basement, and can be viewed from the VIP seating area as well as the general seating area. Both the seating areas are located above the dance floors so it is not so deafening and possible to have a conversation while sitting. The VIP areas over looks the Padang making it feel less enclosed and claustrophobic. On the second storey there is an outdoor bar and lounge which is designed in such a manner to enable more interaction amongst clients. A perfect place to relax and have conversations with friends, colleagues or loved ones, with tranquil music being played and plenty of seating area available to get cozy under the starts, clients may never want to leave this bar.


They say that money can't buy happiness, however money can buy a lot of other things, and there seems to be a direct connection between material prosperity and happiness. With greater wealth comes a greater ability to satisfy our needs and desires. So is it wrong to desire all the pretty things in the world? Knowing that you could afford them and it would make you happier, why not have them?