History of Design (Product) | Historicism & Industrial Revolution Essay

In this essay, we will be discussing about the design reform movements of Historicism that were led by the Industrial Revolution.


The Industrial Revolution, which took place during the 18th to 19th century, was a transitional period which agrarian, rural societies became industrialised. Prior to the Industrial Revolution which began in the Great Britain, manufacturing were often based in homes, using hand tools or basic machines. However, the introduction of industrialisation marked a shift to automatic powered machineries, factories and mass production.

Industrial Revolution

There were a number of factors that contributed to Britain’s role as the birthplace of Industrial Revolution. One, Britain had great deposits of coal and iron ore, which was an essential raw material during industrialisation. Two, Britain was a politically stable society, as well as the world’s leading colonial power. These colonies served as a source of raw materials and acted as a marketplace for manufactured goods. Adding onto the rising demands in British goods, the sought for cost-efficient and effective methods production, led to the rise in mechanisation and factory systems.

Started in 1760, the First Industrial Revolution marked the era of mechanisation which saw the rise of industries mechanised by steam engine, the fast-paced textile industry and evolving stages of metallurgy and metal works. This includes the Spinning Mule that was invented by Samuel Compton and Newcomen’s Atmospheric Steam Engine that was invented by Thomas Newcomen. Following, the Second Industrial began in the 1870 which saw a rise in innovations in the communication, transport and manufacturing sector.

In 1851, the Great Exhibition took place in Hyde Park, London. The exhibition demonstrated the rapid change in technology during the early 19th century with exhibits of traditional tools as well as the revolutionary steam driven engines that were only available in Britain at that time. Despite the huge popularity from the public, the negative responses at the idea of machines replacing manual labour outweighed the positive reactions to the cutting edge technology. [1]

Unfortunately for the craftsmen, the Industrial Revolution brought forth heavy duty machinery and new, superior materials. Hand power gave way to steam driven machines while cast iron replaced wood and brick. Production of such spelt disaster for the craftsmen where machines could produce en-masse, resulting in the merchants selling their mass-produced merchandise at a lower price, reaping in huge lump sum of profit.

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