My name is Stacie, follow me as I make my own Masters.

Brief One - Design in the Second Gilded Age

Brief One - Design in the Second Gilded Age

First brief - Set by Thomas Thwaites - Design in the second gilded age


Gilding is a surface treatment, a process of applying a thin layer of gold to a material, to create a sense of

luxury, solidity, an illusion of depth. The process lends its name to period in American history from 1865 to

1898 known as the Gilded Age, a name coined by Mark Twain in his novel of 1890.

During the period a few individuals accumulated astounding amounts of money by capitalising on some

disruptive technological developments; railways, the bessemer steel production process, telephones,

electric lighting. These vast fortunes of a few captains of industry stood in stark contrast to widespread

poverty of the workers manning the factories. Furthermore the time was characterised by intense political

lobbying, corruption and cronyism, as well as an ethos of social darwinism.

The metaphor of the Gilded Age conjures a sense of luxury, success and decadence, but only on the

surface, to mask the mass of base material below. A Gilded Age, rather than a Golden Age...

Today, growing wealth inequality globally has led some critics to argue we’re living in a Second Gilded Age.

Not since the time of the Robber Barons/Captains of Industry in those last decades of the 19th Century has

so much wealth been owned by so few. Computing technologies have fundamentally changed civilisation

and generated vast fortunes for the 1%, and the 0.1%, but standards of living and real wages have been

declining for the majority. The Occupy movement, but more recently leaks of secret financial information

have focussed attention on corruption, tax evasion, and regulatory capture by the super wealthy.

The idea of luxury is morphing in response to global shifts in wealth. In fashion a new luxury from the banal

style has emerged spearheaded by the collective Vetements, in music the Wu Tang Clan made just one CD

of their 2015 album and sold it at auction for $2m to a pharmaceutical businessman (since jailed for fraud).

In design, the jeweller Tiff any & Co has created a line of ‘everyday’ items in precious metals, so you can

purchase a silver ‘tin can’ for $1000 or a ‘ball of yarn’ for $9000. The concept of meta-luxury has arisen to

distinguish luxury luxury from mere luxury.

Gilding is a surface treatment, one of many that designers use to change the look and feel of an object.

Nowadays we use electroplating, hydroscopic transfer, flocking, powder coating and so on, but the advent

of consumer ‘Mixed Reality’ suggest the idea of applying a sort of virtual surface to objects. What does

exclusivity mean in an age of digital reproduction? What is the role of objects in a culture increasingly

mediated by digital imagery?

In this brief, I want you to:

•  Research luxury design from the period of the first Gilded Age through museum collections.

•  Experiment with material surface treatments, such as electroplating, hydroscopic transfer, flocking,

powder coating and so on.

•  Experiment with applying virtual content to surfaces with mixed reality techniques.

Combine this research and experimentation to create (decorative) domestic object(s) that critically engage

with the metaphor of the Second Gilded Age, and what comes after it...




Introduction to the Gilded Age

Introduction to the Gilded Age

Critical studies - Lecture Hijack

Critical studies - Lecture Hijack