When seeing the Vizio All-In-One PC commercial recently, I was intrigued by the visual argument being presented. Most commercials attempting to sell technology present you with a magical (and in my opinion still fictional) world where all technologies seamless sink, and there are no pesky ads or annoying emails bombarding you. Or, in Apple’s case, they present their new device with a white background and some song from a new band playing that will hit the radio about 4-6 months after the commercial airs.
Vizio’s advertisement tactic portrayed a different approach, visually comparing the design of other PC’s as well as their own, with architecture and the built environment. Though this idea is never verbally stated, the commercial begins in a place titled “PC City,” which appears to be a city where the sun doesn’t adequately shine and the streets are aligned with Brutalist concrete architecture. The inhabitants of PC City act as unhappy, drained robots moving through the moments of their lives. Only when I paused the video did I notice that the buildings are somewhat of a mix between Brutalist architecture and actual technology parts (i.e. a CD drive is popped out of the side of a parking garage). Interestingly enough, I’ve always found a visual similarity in computer chips and cities from a zoomed out scale seen from a plane or map. And yet the commercial describes PC City as, “a dark age where imagination has been banished and ideas become stale…. Here grey and shapeless designs have remained unchanged for decades”
But suddenly, there is another way to life! Through the window where the robot-like humans work is beautiful sunlight shining over glass building on the edge of PC City. The shot zooms into the glazed façade of an apartment and into a room where a man and woman are using their Vizio All-In-One PC. Their glamorously simple home contains a mixture of iconic mid-century furniture and newer takes of other classic pieces. They are surrounded by sleek glass and steel that allow them with plenty of light and views. The commenter says, “Welcome to the PC re-imagined, by Vizio.”
As long as I’ve been in design school, I’ve been intrigued by the use of design to sell other products. It’s almost as if the people in the commercial are living happier lives because of the design of their surroundings. Most of the time this notion happens through furniture, and most of the time architectural movements are not used as analogies. In this commercial, architectural materials that dominated certain movements in design portray feelings sought out by the advertisers: heavy, cold, oppressive concrete Brutalist buildings are associated with old clunky grey PC’s, and modern glass curtain wall facades are associated with the new PC made also of glass (or a glass-like plastic) and some type of shiny chrome finished metal.
During a studio discussion of a reading from Kevin Kelly’s “What Technology Wants,” our professor Marc Swakhammer noted that because of the overstimulation of technology in our lives today, perhaps architecture needs to take a step back. Is glass answer to architecture taking a step back for technology?