J. B. Jackson, Taylorism, Aesthetics and Inbound Marketing

John Brinkerhoff Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape

John Brinkerhoff Jackson’s Discovering the Vernacular Landscape has an essay that discusses Craftsman Style and how Fredrick Winslow Taylor’s principles of scientific management transformed architecture. It shows how management experimented with a psychological approach to space planning and how interior design, as we know it grew out of worker dissatisfaction and a desire for increased productivity. What J. B. Jackson called “A coherent system of environmental design… The triumph of the psychological version of Taylor’s philosophy of work: A job will be done better and seem easier when the environment is properly engineered.” In a short time, the American home began to replicate the factory floor.

The History of Website Design

In recent years, online marketing followed a path similar to early 20th century architecture and interior design. Initially, websites were built by developers who started from scratch with each new project. They knew more about code, technology and database integration than marketing, design or process. Shortly thereafter, graphic designers began developing websites using tools like Adobe Flash to build expressions of personal aesthetic, which in many cases disregarded form and function if they ever were built at all. Ironically, these methods had, and in some cases still have, more in common with the Luddite philosophy of an individualized approach to production than management principles. In the last few years, open source software and PHP based content management systems dramatically changed the landscape of online marketing. Developers and designers became empowered to improve systems resulting in a technological standardization and ease of use. Content management systems such as Squarespace combined with advancements in usability made creating a website appear easy.

The Monotonous Style and Technology

Just like J. B. Jackson’s description of mass-produced residential homes in the 1920’s, graphic design and website development have reached the age of “monotonous style’. The wide availability of website theme’s on WordPress combined with a rudimentary understanding of design and usability have resulted in website designs that are monotonous. Frequently, the lazy and those without skills deliver designs that are at best, mediocre.

Taking the analogy further, J.B. Jackson points to the depression in the 1930’s as impetus for the rise of interior design. Most people living then could not afford to build new homes so they remodeled instead. The interior designer, the color theorist and the media led the charge for a new architectural idiom. Jackson states, “Technostyle achieved its acceptance by means of mock up displays in department stores… Industry devised it, merchandising propagated it and advertising established the canons of correctness.” Evidence of this can be seen in today's widely replicated reproduction colonial homes. Thanks to Taylorism, each has an efficient modern kitchen with the typical triangle workspace layout. And yet veneer in the form of the choice of color, cabinet and hardware styles and a variety of appliance finishes enable customization that signifies a personal identity.

Much like the colonial home, template based website themes and content management systems enable designs that can be modified to become something more. They are the structure on which design is hung. At their most basic, like tofu, these rectangular boxes take on the flavor of the additional ingredients. At their best, themes can be completely customized through a user interface or customization of the layered Photoshop files.

Even exemplars of the American Arts and Craft movement, Roycroft and Stickley embraced manufactured goods. Gustave Stickley writing in The Craftsman stated, “The invention of modern machinery is in itself a notable advancement of the true spirit of craftsmanship… When rightly used, the machine is a simple tool in the hands of a skilled worker it in no way detracts from the quality of his work.”

I founded Means-of-Production because built environment clients need a marketing agency with an ability to balance the best creative with proficient management principles. As the marketing professional, I use a variety of channels and online platforms to convey messages that promote a result. My expertise is crafting brand messages that are remarkable. They drive prospects to your website to confirm your professionalism. Milestones are achieved through the development and management of a strategic marketing plan that systematically guides promotion of your company.

Efficiency means employing individuals with specific expertise and visual style and hiring them to accomplish singular goals. As an example, I choose talented designers from throughout the world whose aesthetic sensibility is suited to your company’s brand and identity. I don’t expect them to know code, and I don’t use generalists.

I believe the best “mass-produced” website themes provide an architecture with customization at the core of its technology. I use The Squarespace website builder and choose certain templates because reinventing something that already exists and is proven to work remarkably well would be a waste of my client’s capital.

I create inbound marketing plans that work. Color, line, texture, shape, layout, architecture, taxonomy, copywriting, tag lines, photography and illustration are all parts of a whole used in concert to attain goals and speak to your audience. Your brand and identity should be smart, memorable, remarkable and personal. It should be as singular as the look and feel you’ve chosen for your home.

About Michael Conway and Means-of-Production

Means-of-Production builds Squarespace websites and writes blogs for built environment firms. Our websites are designed to attract better prospects using blog articles and inbound marketing tactics. We do this with exceptional web design, search engine optimization, landing pages and drip marketing campaigns. Interested in learning more? Click here to view my calendar and schedule a call.