Defining DESIGN + our dependence upon it.

Posted on Oct 10, 2015 in inspiring INvironmentalism

Defining DESIGN + our dependence upon it.

the good, the bad, the fatal.

By Brett Marlo DeSantis

In our modern world, we depend on design. Your home is designed (along with everything in it); your car, the roads you drive on, your community, your workplace, your doctor’s office, the book you are reading and the clothes you are wearing.

Anything and everything manufactured was once designed.

There is great power in design, both for good and not-so-good. From designing buildings to designing apps, our every-day experiences are defined by design.

The BAD, and sometimes, FATAL–planned obsolescence–design for obsolescence occurs when a product is deliberately designed to have a specific short life span. Products are designed to endure long enough to develop a lasting “need.” When the product fails, the customer will want to fill that need and want to buy another, newer up-to-date version.

Designers working in companies that follow the philosophy of built-in obsolescence actually spend time brainstorming how a product can be designed so that it lasts long enough to build customer confidence in both the product and its manufacturer AND still break down quickly enough to ensure another purchase. Most consumers will quickly discard an item if there a quick-fix is not available. This horrible design ethic creates problems for both the consumer and our environment.

The GOOD, and sometimes, INNOVATIVE–thoughtful design embraces innovation and creates solutions. Great designers design desirable products and consider lifecycles. These products may be composed of reusable, recyclable or compostable parts that may be easily fixed. This design philosophy allows for continued value to the consumer. Designing for future adaptations, often referred to as future-proofing is critical in all design industries.

Forward-thinking building designers will take a holistic look at a project and it’s natural and built environment; from mechanical and technological systems to planning for accessibility, adaptability, modularity, deconstruction and repurposing/end-of-life use.

How do we, as consumers, avoid design for obsolescence, or at a minimum manage or mitigate potentially fatal design?

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

Is the design practical, durable and cost-effective? Is it low-energy, flexible, even modular? Can you easily mend or replace broken or worn out parts? Are the parts and labor available locally? How resilient is it; will it take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’? Is it overly-trendy…will you be over it before it breaks? Is the design appropriate for your region and environment? Regional and locally manufactured designs will address many of the above concerns.

The great news is that with the invention and access of 3D printers, consumers can print parts to repair their purchases locally. Our emerging crowd-sourcing society shares print-ready files online!

Do we depend on design for our survival?

Whether we are aware of it or not, we crave and are in need of great design. Now, more than ever before, the survival of humanity depends on design excellence. We designed our way into our environmental challenges and unhealthy interior environments and now we have the opportunity to design our way out!