chapter  2
18 Pages

Imitation in design and consumption

ByRobert Crocker

Imitation in design is strangely mirrored in the social imitation or emulation found in consumption. Imitation is the most effective way to learn, to teach and to pass on environmentally and culturally specific knowledge and skills, including language and design. In a self-perpetuating spiral, competition based on price, substitution and imitation can drive down the quality of goods like this, lowering their value in the consumer's eyes. In developing technological devices, other designers might imitate a technology or process and adapt or apply it to another context. The Dyson vacuum cleaner, for instance, is based upon extraction systems found in many factories. European artisans were commissioned by several royal patrons to find the secrets of Chinese manufacture and produce their own versions, and these 'royal manufactories' soon inspired other entrepreneurial artisans. The superior craftsmanship of Japanese and Chinese silk and ceramic manufacturers, of Indian carpenters, weavers, cotton printers and jewellers, all impressed and influenced European artisans.