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Design Strategy Through a Turnerian Lens

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I argue that in 2004, Mars’ ‘Kingsize Chocolate Bar’ became characterised as

a culturally constructed cause of obesity in the UK. Mars reacted by

redesigning its large bar. In this discussion, cultural theory developed by the

anthropologist Victor Turner provides a lens through which to view Mars’

design strategy. Turner argues that when protagonists transit from a ‘state’

of being to a contrasting state, this movement occurs through culturally

prescribed means. I argue that Mars’ design strategy helped move its large

bar from being associated with the undesirable state of ‘danger’ to the

desirable state of ‘safety’ and that this transition facilitated the continued

survival of the redesigned product. Accordingly, Mars’ designers are framed

as mediating the transition between Turnerian states. Beyond discussion on

chocolate, Turner’s cultural theory may be used to construct a model to

inform design strategy in a wider sense. Accordingly, this paper supports calls

to provide future designers (design students) with more instruction on

cultural issues as this may increase the commercial success of their creations

in professional practice. This move may create contradictions between

commercial and ethical imperatives. In concluding, I argue that exploration of

associated ethical dilemmas should accompany the delivery of cultural




PUBLISHED: Proceedings from the The 19th DMI: Academic Design Management Conference, 2014


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