Twitter: @embody3d – 10.01.2012
Bruce Renfrew is the Managing Director of Renfrew Group International who specialises in consumer product design and industrial design engineering.
What approach should we take when designing the next generation of consumer products? A society driven by consumption needs an endless supply of personal possessions in order to feel satisfied, however the products we build to last today are inevitably going to be recycled at some stage. Is sustainable design really about the delay leading up this end point in a products life cycle?
In a world dominated by fashion and style, where we lust after the latest gadget or piece of modern technology, we appear to be far from ready and willing to adopt the fundamental concepts of product sustainability and sustainable design. Product durability is popular within industrial design circles at the moment, but what of the future? Innovations in technology often require new and improved platforms in which to house it—just think of your personal computer. What disadvantages would you be facing right now if your computer had been produced 10 years ago?
We are increasingly finding that product robustness and longevity is not a problem these days. A modern product built to a high standard and specification with appropriate materials will withstand the ten year life expectancy put in place by supporters of sustainable product design.
More often than not the fate of a product is not determined by its susceptibility to breaking down, but that of taste, style and fashion trends of consumers yearning for the latest new and refreshed model. Because of this, we must be prepared to accept that there are particular products where product durability is substantially an insignificant factor.
With the rapid change of multimedia functionality and smart technology in today’s market place, particularly within cell phone handsets, a ten year life span is clearly not in check with reality. Many, if not most consumers, will have swapped and changed their phone model a number of times within this period and unless they become recycled in the way of pass downs or for use in the developing world, they will be destined to the back of drawers.
As designers and manufacturers it is vital that we change awareness in terms of the value of consumer products so that we can make our world’s finite resources go further with ever increasing demands.