Why we buy.

A little response to today’s Change by Design lecture: “Christmas Spirit – why we buy”

We started off by looking at the books we are going to read next semester. Here is a clip of Steven Johnson talking about one of those books “Where good ideas come from”

From that wee clip, I’m looking forward to reading it. Defining myself as “a creative” means I am of course interested in good ideas, but you could argue that everybody is interested in that! Will update again with my thoughts, once I’ve read it.

Now let’s go shopping!

Shops/supermarkets are set out the way they are for a reason, that’s why we go in for milk and come out with a bag of cookies and two apples and no milk. I work at Candy Cupcake and am constantly telling my mum to organize the shelves better, apply categories to them, get the good stuff over to the right, the popular stuff in the center. etc. but she is too busy to listen! But it is true. Shops make you buy things by how they are set out (and for those annoying people who will go “oh but I have my my own mind, these silly little things could not affect my amazingly awesome and unique and originally independent mind” shush, you’re fooling nobody). Red and yellow go ooo look at me, yellow says buy me, things in the middle are always the best, etc. I know all of this and I am still caught out. I might go to tesco with a list and come out with all of those things on the list but I’ve most likely got a couple of others in my shopping bags. It’s not just supermarkets, in any shop we are affected by the way it is set out. Most clothing stores well set out clothes in pre-designed “outfits” so you go “ooo I like that skirt, and ooo look that top matches it so perfectly” so, you go in for a skirt and come out with a top, cardigan, matching shoes and handbag. If we touch something we are more likely to buy it. So, when you go to a shop TOUCH NOTHING! and you should be okay! On that note a lot of shops but prices on the bottom so you have to look for the price, but then it’s already in your hand so you are then more likely to buy it. Some shops don’t put prices on their products so you have to engage the seller (most likely something high-end). I understand why shops to that, if somebody is telling you in the flesh to buy something you are more likely to buy it, but I really really really hate it when there isn’t a price on something, I just walk away! We got talking about this because of the blog posts Johnathon asked us to write about the best present we ever recieved:

I wrote mine about the cabinet my dad made for me, for my 18th and birthdays in the future.

For the full blog post click here.

From a little discussion throughout the room, it seemed the most valuable presents to us where the ones that had little monetary value. The meanings of value when buying gifts was brought up: for the person who is selling the item it is just money to them, the giver adds his/her layer of value you onto this item, ie. a ring and then the receiver is adding another layer of value onto the item again. This can be seen even clearer when gifts are passed down through generations. Handmade gifts are similar, the maker attaches his/her meaning to the gift with the receiver in mind and then the receiver adds his/her layer of value. Think about that next time you receive a gift.

At some point we moved onto advertising. Adverts do not make you buy stuff. The help recall the emotion you felt when you watched/saw the advert and that art of your brain comes alive when it comes to choosing things whilst shopping. Basically they plant ideas. For example, Marks and Spencers food adverts. I’m sure you’ve seen them but here is a clip anyway:

You could have just had a full Christmas dinner and that advert would still make you salivate and want more. They manage to make food (that I know I don’t even like) look sexy. Om nom nom. And listen the voice of the woman, she is just listing what the food is, but her tone: she definitively has her fingers under her skirt. So next you have an orgasm in M&S while walking up the dessert isle you’ll know why.

That brings me in a weird way to the questions Johnathon asked of us at the end of the lecture:

What is the true meaning of Christmas?

Well, of course it’s the whole Jesus thing. I’m not religious, yet I still celebrate Christmas. Why? Well the most obvious answer is because eveybody else does it and that is the way I was brought up. For me, it has become about spending time with family and having everybody de-stress for a day or two. Everything else is either commercialized nonsense or religious based.

Is shopping a patriotic duty?

When put like that it seems a little odd! But at the moment I guess it kind of is. I’m not going to pretend I completely understand the economic crisis; but from what I can gather some idiotic wankers were getting a little carried away with numbers and now the world is fucked. So, just keep shopping! Even, if it doesn’t sort the world out, shopping makes you really sexy:


How much will you spend this Christmas?

Depends how nice my friends/family are to me before I go shopping!

What’s the role of design in all of this?

I could be really negative and self-hating and go into how horrible we designers are in making people buy shit they don’t need and all of that but I’m going to positive. I’d like to think we are trying to change the shopping experience for the user and not the company, if we are not there is so much potential for us to do that. Think of the user not the consumer – you may say they are the same thing but that’s not true. Designers could utilize there skills to think of what people really want, not what the color yellow and product placement tells them they want. We should be advertising the good things, make fruit cool, make vegetarianism sexy, make organic fabric fashionable, make charity shops the place to buy from, etc. etc. etc. I though the clip from “The Daily Show” that Johnathon showed us quite amusing, and suggestive that this is the kind of stuff that we should definitivly not be advertising! Check it out here.

What’s your response to the Tweenagers film?

Yeah, I remember being like that. I think I’m still a bit like that. All we want, as humans, is to be accepted and sadly for these kids it is to wear the brands or be bullied. As you get older you either grow into a brand-obsessed, broke consumer or you grow out of it. I’m now anti-brand. I buy charity shop/vintage/online 1. it’s easier to find what I really want 2. I’m not adding to the waste problem 3. owning something that was pre-used is really appealing to me, it has a whole story to it before you even get it. I’m also, being a crafter, trying to buy as much handmade stuff as I can (but I need to make the money first!). I was shocked by the extent to which branding/advertising gets to kids. At the moment it’s to promote toys and other products but if some intelligent and influential people could just get in there and use that to do some good. Kids are so susceptible to anything, we need to use that to promote positive things, ie. bullying = bad, fruit = good, recycling = good, etc. I don’t have the answers on how to convert the world to the positives but I’m working on it!

Chloe out.


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