Consumption is an integral part of our modern social system, and has been the driving force behind Western civilization’s development. Demand for novelty, the newest technology, and the next trend fueled the industrial, post-industrial, and technology revolutions. Over time consumption poked holes in the atmosphere that sustains life, failed to have any lasting effect on societal happiness, and plateaued in its ability to improve life through economic growth.
Unconsumption, coined in 2007 by cultural columnist Rob Walker, is the relationship that happens after acquiring a product. Practicing Unconsumption means enjoying what we have, repairing or repurposing what is worn, and trading what we no longer want.
challenge: The challenge Unconsumption faces is introducing a philosophy that defies centuries of hard-wired consumerism. Adding to this conundrum is the fact that Unconsumption requires active participation. How do we convince a consumer society to reconsider their unconscious addiction — and make Unconsumption an approachable and desirable activity?
process: Our team of four started with secondary research to begin hypothesizing reasons whyas a culture we’re attracted to the ideals of DIY and sustainability initiatives, but lack the commitment to practice Unconsumption. We then tested our conclusions, and formed new ones, with the input of 379 online survey participants and in-depth interviews with cultural tastemakers.
strategy: Instead of focusing on sacrifice and ultimatums, Unconsumption focuses on positive messages and incremental change. The position of “pivot” allows Unconsumption to be a strong-willed brand that attracts young enthusiasts before they cement their consumption habits. These advocates will motivate a larger audience to pivot their relationship with consumption.
The first impression and the continued conversation happens through Unconsumption’s Tumblr. View site
The social media campaign focused on the beauty of long-term relationships — that like wine and art, objects get better with time. This creative was based on the following research conclusions:
- We have a sense that consumption can’t be contained
- Happiness from consumption can be shallow and short-lived
- Purchases can make us feel guilty
The brand video demonstrates the enjoyableness of an Unconsumption lifestyle.
SVA MPSB thesis project 2014
client: Rob Walker
thesis advisors: Debbie Millman, Richard Shear, Nadia Tuma
team: Stephanie Campbell, Sara Bernát, George Mathew
collaborative role: project manager, brand identity design, visual language design, site architecture & design, qualitative & quantitative research, competitive audit, audience profile, brand positioning