Everyone assumes designers have always been around.
But that’s not true.
For thousands of years, when you needed something you made it.
Or got someone else to make it.
You didn’t go shopping.
Because shops hadn’t been invented.
If you needed a table, you measured up the space and had one made.
You didn’t go to the table-emporium to choose from a vast array of tables in different materials, and different styles, at a range of prices.
If your wagon needed a wheel, you got the wheelwright to measure it up and make you one.
Everything was made individually.
The person who worked out how to make it was also the person who made it.
There were no designers.
So what changed everything?
The Industrial Revolution.
Suddenly machines could make things.
In fact machines could make hundreds, even thousands, of identical things.
But machines couldn’t think.
They couldn’t work out what to make, or how to make it.
That’s when we needed designers.
Someone who could break any product down into many smaller parts that a machine could make.
Now the person who worked out how it should be made was no longer the person who made it.
It was design for mass production.
Everyone thinks Henry Ford invented mass production.
That’s not quite true.
He may have invented the assembly line: one man, one job.
But half a century before him, Colt was the first person to show it to the world.
At the Great Exhibition he unveiled his guns made from identical parts.
Everyone was gobsmacked.
Previously, on the battlefield, if you had two broken guns they were both useless.
Now for the first time, you could take the parts from one to fix the other.
It sounds obvious to us nowadays.
But in 1905, Oldsmobile demonstrated it in a way that looked like magic.
They shipped 3 of their cars to Southampton and drove them to London.
Then they invited the press, and stripped the cars down to their smallest components.
Then, they invited everyone to mix them up as much as possible.
Then, from all the mixed up parts, they reassembled 3 cars.
And drove all 3 back to Southampton.
Even today that would be a great ad.
And it was done years before advertising even existed.