An assignment from my History of Media class:
Read 3 issues of a design magazine of your choice, cover to cover--including ads, articles, images. Analyze what the magazine is saying about "good design," design issues, and factors influencing design. Write up your analysis and summarize your key findings to present in class.
We were allowed to work in pairs and so my partner and I chose ReadyMade. We read the 2008 August/September, October/November and 2009 February/March issues of the magazine. One thing that struck us was the large number of things to buy in the magazine. Magazines–especially magazines targeted towards women–are often nothing but catalogs, listing page after page of an idealized world where entrance only requires the reader to consume, just a little, just this month, until the next issue comes along.
We did not expect a magazine devoted to "DIY" culture to fall into the same trap, but it did. Perhaps the magazine was not as trendy, buy-hungry when it was independently published and lacked nationwide ad sponsors. As it stands, we decided to highlight the advertisers to find out more about their perceived demographic (indie rockers), we went through and counted how many products there were for sale versus how many there were to make and we took notes on how much those products cost. Then I went crazy with creating graphs and slides with the data for our presentation.
As a magazine with a theoretical ethos of some kind, ReadyMade does have some nice aspects–most products for sale are under $100 and all the ads are front-loaded so you can read spread after spread of ad-free features. The media kit and advertising sales literature, however, highlights information such as:
Taken together, Gen X and Gen Y wield more spending power than any other group.
These are very smart and motivated consumers. They shop more, and buy higher-ticket items than previous generations.
It's creepy. I can't help but feel targeted (like a deer, not like a market) and manipulated. People often turn to "DIY" business because it supposedly represents independent and unique craftsmanship, a lack of consumerism and a vibrant community–things that are considered the anti-thesis of large corporate marketing campaigns. ReadyMade is essentially saying "hey, big companies, we have access to a market that doesn't trust you. Trust us and you can still take their money."
I should make it plain and say I don't think ReadyMade is evil. I think they (mostly) do the best they can while still trying to earn a buck. The creepy marketing speak is just that, the language of consumerism. Business has time and again taken the fruits of creative labor and independent thought and leveraged it as a strategic advantage against competition. Succeeding in business means destroying other companies because resources are scarce, money is scarce and getting ahead means getting ahead of other people. Is it natural? Sure. Is it creepy? Oh hell yes.
Labels: business is creepy, chihuahua in a jacket, diy, graphs, media, readymade, school work
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