Designing the Department Store builds an original argument for the department store as a significant design production site. Therefore, it offers an alternative interpretation of the mainstream focus on consumption within retail history.
Emily M. Orr presents a fresh perspective on the rise of modern urban consumer culture, of which the department store was a key feature. By investigating the production processes of the display and fascinating information about display making's tools and technologies, the display person's skills and the meaning and context of design decisions that shaped the final visual effect are revealed.
The book also identifies and isolates 'display' as a distinct moment in the life of the commodity and understands it as an influential channel of mediation in the shopping experience. The assembly and interpretation of a diverse range of previously unexplored primary resources and archives yield fascinating new evidence, showing how display achieved an agency that transformed everyday objects into commodities and made consumers out of passersby.
Emilly M. Orr is Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary American Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.