Products are cultural personalities.


The daily life of countless people is defined by how products are produced and how raw material is processed. Products are silent representatives of global culture. For the endusers, products moreover become an active and essential contribution to daily life. Because of products, we live differently, we take part in experiences that seemed impossible only decades ago – let alone centuries ago. Serial products are rooted so deeply in society, that I regard them as cultural participants.

For a designer, adopting such a perspective implicates a great potential as well as a responsibility. The values of “design” are an important part of what is offered to our culture and where it might be heading. It raises the question, in what culture I wish to live in, and how I can contribute to positive changes.

My vision of a meaningful culture is based on empathy. A culture wherein there is time and priority to feel – enabling a clear view on the inner realm of experience as well as our social and material surroundings. A culture that is not so much characterized by rational-moral efficiency, but that rather follows the unclouded expression of compassion.

Empathy in product design simply means to feel and imagine as clearly as possible what it would be like to live with a product, to touch and to use it, to be surrounded by it on a daily basis, to take part in its production or to experience its ecological impact. Sustainability then becomes a self-evident consequence.

If a product is perceived within its fullest context, it implies the invitation to bring together all the aspects of design to one meaningful whole. I see this as a responsibility of product design, with great relevance for the challenges of our time.

Ingmar Cramers was born in the Netherlands, 1984. He studied Product Design at the Design Academy Eindhoven and the FH Potsdam. The studio of Ingmar Cramers Design is based in Potsdam, Germany. Ingmar is father of one son.
(A critical note on consumption)
Buying a product is an act with direct influence on countless people and places. Marketing that uses purely fictional product values, to trigger impulsive emotional consumption, as well as discount pricing, make it very easy to forget about the cultural roots of what you’re about to buy. It makes a purchase an abstract act of self-interest.
But, whether it happens in awareness or not: buying or not-buying is always a small vote for or against the underlying values of a product.
Most products today have a background that remains strictly hidden. Usually, we are buying blindly and the cultural influence of a purchase remains unknown to us. To change things, it is crucial to support and reward transparency. It unfolds the democracy of a market and contributes to the development of an empathic culture.
Yes, buying products with constant consideration of transparency and personal values is time consuming, and more expensive. But even if time and finances are not always plenty enough to act fully according to your own ideal – adopting a cultural perspective is the crucial step, and will lead to an everyday tendency throughout all your purchase decisions, that will have an influence on the market however big or small. It is a new purchase behavior that needs to be learned. Finding both transparency as well as your own values in products, shops, services or brands gets easier with time, and the internet can be a great tool.
Ingmar Cramers invites you to look at consumption critically. Tu use, wear or eat a product, and at the same time to enjoy connectedness through shared values, holds both a personal and a cultural meaning!
En / De