Compulsive Consumerism Consumerism

Made by Chelsea Chen

I explore and present visually what drives people towards consumerism, and the contexts underlying this phenomenon.

Created: September 8th, 2016



When I think about modern society and modern life, few of the words that pop up in my head are consumerism, commercialism, and conformity. Because I've gotten to look at some of Andy Warhol's works for this module, I started to pay attention and think about consumerism. Why do people buy things they don't need? Why do people simply feel the urge to spend money and/or possess things? In my opinion, a lot of the times our decisions of making certain purchases aren’t conscious, rather, they’re driven by lack of security, tendency to impress others, stress, conformity, or simply compulsive habit of shopping. Therefore, I wish to explore and convey this phenomenon visually, to make people more aware of the effects of consumerism on them, and hopefully encourage them to become more conscious consumers.    



I went to the Andy Warhol museum and was very much inspired by his iconic and powerful artworks using, what one would think, simple manipulations of simple images of consumer products, to reflect the mass production/consumer culture in America. This brought me to contemplate over the matter of consumerism as well. Although I went to a different direction of consumerism and tried to show something different from what Warhol tried to convey, I based my idea on the context of mass consumption of products, a lot of which we don’t need. Of course, Warhol’s technique of creating powerful works with simple images inspired me as well, and I tried to emulate it by manipulating just ordinary pictures.     



I explored the idea of unconscious and compulsive consumerism further, and decided that I want to show how consumerism in this manner can consume women, without them being aware of it. I used images of women obsessing over certain products, which often are excessive in their lives. They’re meant to illustrate that women sometimes buy more gym membership cards than they have time and energy to exercise, very similar cosmetic products that they almost never use up, extravagant shoes and garments they rarely have the chance to wear, and newest versions of electronic products when it’s not necessary to invest money in them. The background layer is an image of a pair of hands holding the bars on a barcode, symbolizing people being imprisoned by consumerism. In all of the images, the women seem in bliss over their possession of these things they don’t actually need, and this is what I wish to convey—that regardless of what their unconscious intentions of purchasing these products are, they’re very much imprisoned by consumerism.    



I tried to employ the techniques Andy Warhol uses in his pieces, such as repetition of the same image with different colorings to an effect of emphasis. However, instead of repeating the same image, I used different images, photo shopped them to have the same tone, and made a collage of them with a layer of a background image. Specifically, I used Prisma as my tool for photoshop and added the “Candy” effect on each of the images of women, to create a sense of euphoria and dramatize the state these women are in holding or kissing their consumer products. The layering of the barcode image “lurking” in the background is meant to stimulate the sense that these women are being incarcerated in consumerism, but unaware of it. 

Also, I do not own credit to any of the images I used.    



Just style-wise, I don’t think my product turned out particularly appealing as I wished it would. The coloring of the image might make it blurry to some audience, and I’m not sure if everyone can distinguish the background barcode image, which is very essential to my product. Content-wise, maybe it’s not enough to illustrate my idea and thoughts on consumerism through images of women obsessing over some products, because indeed it’s not only women who are driven by the motivations I mentioned before to make unnecessary or impulsive purchases. Also, I think my product would come across as criticism to people who love to shop, which is not my intention, and I had a hard time trying to resolve this issue.    


Personal Reflection

I was unsure about my idea and which direction to go about creating the end product at the beginning of this project, and I kind of consolidated my idea and found my direction through the process of exploring different styles and methods that I’d want to incorporate into this project. At the beginning, I wanted to copy Andy Warhol’s pop art style, but decided that it’s not sufficient to show what I want to convey in my piece. Thus, I arrived at the decision to borrow some of Andy Warhol’s methods, such as collaging and manipulation of colors, but keep the other parts original.

As I was trying to bring awareness to the impact of consumerism. I also discovered that I’m not a conscious shopper and I myself need to improve in this area. I’ve certainly become better at manipulating photoshopping tools.

I would probably try to make my illustration more comprehensive, and creative instead of just using images of people and consumer products, if I were to do anything different for this project.    

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62-150 Intro to Media Synthesis and Analysis

· 28 members

New creative industries are empowering new modes of collaborative consumption, creation and reuse of media. This often relies on successful collaborations between cross-trained artists, designers a...more


I explore and present visually what drives people towards consumerism, and the contexts underlying this phenomenon.