This research came about after working on a one-week project for the platform “Design as Catalyst” in the Design Products department at the Royal College of Art. The assignment was to design a system or product that required balance to work. My project centred on a concept I have always been fascinated with: the construction of the relationship between an idol and a fan, and the imbalance and one-sidedness within it. This interest derived from my own experience, as I used to be a fan. I therefore designed Ultimate Merchandise to explore whether a product could help redress the balance, or create a greater imbalance within this relationship.
Justin Bieber is currently one of the world’s biggest stars and his fans – known as Beliebers – are unconditionally devoted to him. They are devoted and determined to get close to him. This new breed of fan worships their idol in a new way. They share their passion online and have direct access to Justin on YouTube and Twitter and go to extreme lengths to get noticed. Beliebers are fiercely loyal and not to be crossed. What drives their obsession? And why do so many girls love Justin Bieber?
Justin Bieber is a product of the contemporary era: made by his fans and smartly marketed back to them by producers. As a product designer, I find this fascinating. Justin Bieber can be considered a very popular and desirable product that is able to achieve a strong connectedness and intimacy with consumers from a distance. On a macro level, throughout this research I aim to understand more about different systems of product design and how products represent society. The product is only the physical manifestation of its social systems. I explored how the construction of the celebrity functions on different levels. I tried to take the concept apart as a culturally fabricated product and to understand the systems behind it. Why do we need idols? What do they mean? Who or what is assigning it meaning?