BBC Bitesize - societal, legal, and moral issues

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Design & Technology

Societal, legal and moral issues

Obviously designers have to think about what people want from a product. But consumer demand is a complex matter. Consumers are influenced by fashion, by public perceptions, by moral attitudes, and by changing lifestyles.

Product designers need to consider all these factors, as well as making sure the product conforms to current laws and standards.

Societal, cultural and market influences

Design is influenced by what people want, and what people want is affected by societal, cultural and market influences. These influences come in the shape of current lifestyles and fashions, and the influence of design from other times and other cultures.

Market influences are partly caused by the fact that people want to have the same products as their friends. You and your friends will have similar interests, which designers have to understand if their products are to fit in with your lifestyle and sell well. Designers of mobile phones know that they have to design phones which will not only meet you and your friends' needs, but also make the right kind of 'design statement' about you the users.

At the same time, however, people want to be individuals, to stand out from the crowd, and express themselves by, for example, wearing clothes that look and feel unique. Designers need to understand this desire, otherwise their products will not sell.

Mobile phones and clothes make 'design statements' about their owners. (

Consumer choice

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Consumer choice is the idea that consumers should have a wide range of products to choose from, because different consumers will want different styles, different performance, and different prices when considering a purchase. Consumer choice is an influence on design, because designers need to know what their potential customers are looking for if they are going to design and make successful products.

Car manufacturers, for example, will design and make the same model of car in many slightly different versions, to suit individual drivers' different tastes.

Market research

Companies use market research to find out what people want. Interviews or questionnaires are used to gather people's views on the products they like, the functions and features they require, and the amount they would be prepared to pay. Sometimes the research is carefully focused on a particular group of people - eg women, people of a certain age-range or salary level - who have been identified as key potential consumers.

The results of the research are then passed on to the designer, whose job it is to design…


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